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September 16, 2014

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Lasting impressions: ‘Legends in Concert’ celebrates 30 years in Las Vegas

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Sam Morris

Katie Murdock portrays Britney Spears during “Legends in Concert” on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at Harrah’s.

30 Years of ‘Legends in Concert’

Elvis tribute artist Victor Trevino performs during a special 30th anniversary performance of Legends in Concert at the Flamingo Showroom Monday, May 6, 2013. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Katie Murdock portrays Britney Spears during "Legends in Concert" on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at Harrah's.

After 30 years on the Strip, the celebrity tribute show “Legends in Concert” is a legend in its own right. Tonight, the show celebrates the three-decade milestone with a special anniversary performance at the Flamingo at 7:30.

“Legends” has evolved over the years from featuring strictly late Las Vegas icons such as Elvis Presley to living pop superstars such as Lady Gaga and Rod Stewart. Today, the show has venues across the country, and its performers are in constant rotation; many have come and gone, but plenty have stuck around for the thrill of the tribute.

The Sun spoke with cast member Katie Murdock, who has performed as Britney Spears in the show for seven years, about what it takes to make a “Legend” endure:

How did you come to be a Britney Spears impersonator, and what brought you to “Legends in Concert”?

It was so random how it happened — I used to do nails at a spa [in Utah], and this producer from Vegas comes in and says she’s looking for a Britney for a show she was doing, which was “Legends.” I was always told I looked like her ever since she became famous, but I didn’t think anything of it until then. The producer asked me to audition, and since I grew up singing with my family all my life, I went for it. Before then, I didn’t think it was possible for me to do singing and dancing as a career because I was just this girl from Utah. Then I did my first show with “Legends,” and the reality hit me that, ‘Oh I can do this!’ I didn’t even realize that impersonating was such a big thing until I moved to Las Vegas, and I’ve been with them ever since.

Clearly you’ve taken to it. What do you enjoy about being an impersonator?

I just love being onstage and performing. I’ll never get tired of being able to sing and dance for work. Entertaining people and being onstage is really rewarding for me. Britney is such an icon, and I’m honored to be able to impersonate her. I wish I could meet her, though! (Laughs)

Oh, so you’ve never met her?

No! I’m hoping that might change if she gets her residency here.

How do you think that would impact you and the show in general?

I hope they would put me in the show for longer. I think that I’d be very busy if she was here. Right now, I’m in the show until the end of June, and then I go to Atlantic City. They switch us out to different “Legends” venues in other cities, so we all rotate. Hopefully they’ll bring me back, and I can stay here if she’s in town. There’s a lot of Michaels and Dollys and Elvises, but I’m the only Britney.

What was the biggest challenge for you in learning the craft of being a tribute artist?

Getting all the mannerisms down, and the voice. I had to watch a lot of videos over and over, I kept watching and watching. Then I had to learn the makeup right, and the walk. It's all about those little details that make a good impersonator. I didn’t really have a trainer or anything. Her videos are mainly what helped me. I do a lot of dancing in my set, so doing both singing and dancing at the same time is definitely a challenge. Everything is live in the show; there’s no lip-synching. You have to learn to breath control really well.

After doing this nightly for seven years, how do you keep your act fresh? Do you ever get sick of putting on the same costumes every night, or of listening to her music?

Actually, on the way to work every night, I put on Britney’s music to get in the mood. It always helps me. I do get tired of it sometimes, but I really do love her music. Every song, actually. It’s funny, when I go to the gym, I still get excited when her songs come on because she just has the best songs to work out to. You’d think I wouldn’t even listen to her at all at this point outside work, but her songs are just so sexy. I don’t get sick of it.

In terms off keeping my act fresh, I’m always looking online and updating myself with what she’s doing. I’m getting a new look and costume made right now, actually. The first six years of being in the show I did the same set, and I’ve finally changed it to how I want it. The process of making changes takes a while because it’s a big company — you have to write the band charts and the tracks and vocal arrangements. Now I’ve put new songs in it; I put in new costumes. Before I didn’t even have a costume change, and now I have four different looks. The choreography is updated, and it’s just a lot better.

Click to enlarge photo

Katie Murdock portrays Britney Spears during "Legends in Concert" on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at Harrah's.

A few years ago, Britney had her infamous breakdown and sort of fall from grace. Does what happens to a legend in real life impact the act in the show?

It had a big impact. I didn’t do Britney for two years after that because they took her out of the show. I sang in a cover band and bartended instead. Because of what she was going through, my character was no longer in demand in the venues. She wasn’t in a good place in the public eye, and that’s doesn’t bring in kids and families and other people visiting in the summertime when my character is more popular. But then as soon as her album “Circus” came out, I’ve been busy ever since.

What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have of impersonators in Las Vegas?

I think a lot of people think of our show as kind of cheesy, but then when they come see it, they’re impressed by the fact that we actually sing live. I don’t think people realize that we do that, and that we actually look like the characters — that we work hard to put on this show and that we’re talented performers in our own right.

At the same time, I don’t want people to think I’m trying to be Britney all day, every day. This is what I do onstage for my job. I’m not trying to shave my head when she shaves her head. I’m a performer. When I go home at the end of the day, I’m a different person. I’m Katie.

In your time with “Legends,” how has it evolved as an overall production?

They’re always updating it. The characters in the show used to be only legends who have passed away, and now they’re starting to do people like Britney, who haven’t passed but are definitely already legends. They’re putting in younger, more modern acts like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and changing the choreography to make sure that stays updated, as well. That’s what’s changed the most.

I feel very honored to be a part of it, to say I'm in a show that’s been on the Strip for 30 years. I appreciate the opportunity, and the Flamingo is such an awesome place to perform. Judy Garland has performed on that stage! I’ll be doing this for as long as I can.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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  1. I miss John Waine