Thursday, May 17, 2012 | 11:57 p.m.
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Comedy impressionist Jeff Tracta takes on a seemingly impossible task when he sings, dances and jokes along with literally dozens of copies of himself as other stars. In an entertainment scene that seems to spawn as many magicians as ventriloquists and impersonators, he wanted to stand out with something new and different, and he’s pulled it off with perhaps the most unusual impersonation act ever attempted.
“You could only achieve this now with all the technological advances in multimedia video,” said Jeff, who performs at The Pearl in the Palms through Sunday. “Just a couple of years ago, it would simply be impossible.” Jeff, who was a longtime heartthrob on “Bold and the Beautiful,” was Liza Minnelli’s opening act at the Las Vegas Hilton in October, and now he’s the headliner.
“I have 45 extra minutes to prove myself. I have a 75-minute act; I did 30 minutes for Liza,” Jeff told me. “I am really excited about it. We are pulling out all the stops. The production is so much bigger than what I did at Liza’s show. It is a real multimedia experience. You’ll be blown away by the incredible technology.
“I’m not just performing with myself impersonating other stars times 30 or even times 60. At this point, it’s times 100. I morph into a lot of the people. I become Andrea Bocelli and do a duet with me as Sarah Brightman. I become all the guys from the Backstreet Boys. I become all the guys from The Black Eyed Peas. You have to come see if Fergie’s involved, too. People loved what they saw at Liza’s show, but now I’m on steroids.”
I asked Jeff, “How do you keep track of yourself and not lose yourself in all the other identities?”
“It’s practice. You practice and practice and practice until you go into autopilot. I watch gymnasts do what they do, and I marvel at their ability. They say they do it on autopilot; they practice it over and over. As an impressionist, especially when doing rapid-fire impressions, it really is the same way of practice that allows you to pull it off.”
Jeff’s use of double, triple and quadruple versions of himself make him unique. “I don’t think anyone has ever done it before. My producer John McEntee wanted to take it to another level. The key is we pulled it off. We’ve done it in such a way that the audience is in on it, and they know that every character they see is still me. People really have fun with it, and they love the idea that they are in on the fun.
Jeff was 7 when he discovered his knack for impersonating voices -- as an altar boy. “As a little kid, I would hear someone speaking with a distinct voice or a cartoon character, and immediately I could do it. When I went into show business, I got into the world of soap operas and I was a leading man, so there was never a reason for me to be a funny impersonator.
“I never had the opportunity in all the years of doing soaps to show my other side except in the makeup room. I would keep everyone laughing doing impressions of the other actors and the crew, but I got to a certain point where I had done enough leading man roles that I wanted to do something different.”
“I have three separate titles in the show -- impersonator, comedian and singer -- but if I had to drop two of those, I would be standing with impersonator because it is really my unique talent.”
Jeff has more than 100 voices in his repertoire, and some took him seconds to nail down, like Ray Romano, while others, like George Lopez with the raspy heaviness, took hours to learn.
“The toughest part of getting it right is getting to a place where you trust yourself. No matter what you do when you walk out on the stage, you are going to have contact with your audience. Just have fun with them and enjoy the experience with them. Leave the worry. I worry until I walk out on the stage; then I leave the worry behind and go on autopilot and have a blast.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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