Legends show a classic at the Clark Center

January 10, 2011


A little piece of Vegas has invaded the Central Coast to ring in 2011, which is not necessarily a good thing.

But after a thoroughly enjoyable, if a bit kitschy, Best of the Original Legends Series’ show that runs through Saturday, Jan. 15 at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande, bring it on.

To be fair, Legends is actually an all-star revue of the best moments from Mary Meserve-Miller’s previous tribute shows at the SLO Little Theater, which have become somewhat of a legend in their own right, consistently authentic and popular.

The nearly 2½-hour program at the classy, cozy Clark started with a subdued but classy number from Nat King Cole, coolly portrayed by Roy Henry.  Suddenly, Henry morphed into Ray Charles for ‘Hit the Road Jack’.  A smooth transition to Patsy Cline for the classic ‘Crazy’, featuring a smooth sax solo followed and the crowd was hooked.

Aided by a wonderful group of dancers who hustled on and off stage in different costumes and a tight band of local musicians, the Legends show is truly a team effort.  But it’s the icons in all their make-believe glory, who carried the show.

And what a group it is. In addition to Cole, Charles and and Cline, there was Johnny Cash, who looked more like Joe Pesci but sang like Cash, so no worries. Judy Garland, stunningly portrayed by Nipomo High freshman Kelly Barrett, was featured along with Orbison, Sinatra and of course, Elvis.  Not a bad night out on the town.

A nice touch by Meserve-Miller to go along with the singing, dancing and music was a video screen showing historic footage of these legendary American performers. This production had all the bases covered and more.

The first act ended with a bang with Presley’s ‘Trouble’.  After a long intermission, the second act started strong with Garland’s ‘Get Happy’, Cash’s stirring ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, Orbison’s haunting ‘In Dreams’ and Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’.  The show then lost some of its mojo, more a reflection of weak songs like ‘Nature Boy’, ‘Love Me Tender’ and other obscure tunes. And for some reason, the snappy ‘Little Less Conversation’ by Elvis was left out.

However, Legends quickly got back on track with the nostalgic ‘My Way’ and finished with a flourish with ‘What I’d Say’ and a great Orbison/Cash/Presley ‘Pretty Woman’ finale.  An audience that had enthusiastically applauded and clapped along all night stood in appreciation as the various performers took their bows.

It was the least we could do.

Tickets, which are $35 for adults and $20 for students,  for the remaining performances are available online at http://www.clarkcenter.org.

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What a great night. (I must have missed the part where the show got off track!)

Looking at the number of songs that each of these “legends” have performed over the course of their careers provided Meserve-Miller with enough material to fill many nights of song and dance and selecting the small handful for each to do must have been a very difficult task for Meserve-Miller, yet a task that she was obviously up to. She did it well and then some. The variety offered, both in artists and music, was superb. I hope there will be a Best of Legends II in the not too distant future.

It seems to me to be a shame that the SLO Little Theater has dropped this great revenue source. What were they thinking?