Category: Good Times

Showcase of Stars continues to shine but with new purpose

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

The Holiday Showcase of Stars lost its reason for existence in June.

The annual event was launched as a fundraiser for St. Anthony School. However, after decades of existence, the school was shuttered before last summer.

But as the adage says, the show must go on. And the Holiday Showcase of Stars returns on Saturday, this time as a fundraiser for the city’s two remaining elementary parochial schools.

Debbie Schur, the longtime organizer of the holiday variety show explained, “With the closing of St. Anthony School a decision had to be made and our core group all agreed that Catholic school education in Bristol would continue to benefit.”

She explained, “Parish priests and principals at both St. Joseph and St. Matthew were extremely enthusiastic about supporting and promoting the event, as well as keeping the tradition going.”

“Bristol is blessed with wonderful public and parochial schools,” said Schur. “It is our belief that our citizens have a right to choose which schools are best for their individual children and so we will continue to support the Catholic schools in Bristol.”

Even though the beneficiary of the show’s ticket sales has changed, Schur said the show itself hasn’t.

“Quite honestly, it feels like it hasn’t missed a beat,” said Schur. “Besides initially adjusting to a new rehearsal venue (since St. Anthony School wasn’t available anymore), it has all fallen into place.”

“The toughest part is that a few of our showcase family were unable to take part this year and that has proven to be more of an emotional hurdle for me personally,” said Schur. “But we have new faces and voices and new people have stepped up to assist and that has been encouraging and gratifying. The show itself has a basic format that we play with each year.”

The theme this year reflects, however, the transition that the event has had to made.

This year, the Holiday Showcase of Stars is called “Can’t Stop the Spirit.”

“When St. Anthony school closed, we were all approached by numerous people, about the show ending,” said Schur. “Quite honestly for our tight knit group, that was never an option. Combine our group’s ‘fight instinct,’ if you will, with all the unrest in our country and in our world, ‘Can’t Stop the Spirit!,’ in some ways became a battle cry.”

This year’s Holiday Showcase of Stars is its 13th year as a holiday entertainment tradition in Bristol.

“I think the heart and spirit of our cast help create a very contagious atmosphere and tradition for people,” said Schur. “For many it is their kick off to the Christmas season and it is fun entertainment for the entire family.”

Holiday music endures because it is a tradition, said Schur. Plus, she said, “With different performers performing different versions, even though you always know the song, there is always a spin or surprise.”

The showcase organizers have long prided themselves on the talent of the children in the show, many who return show after show.

“That is one of the things I personally look forward to each year,” Schur, “watching them grow, not only in stature but in their personalities and characters is such fun. We have a set of twins, the Porcaros, that have been with us since age 3, almost their whole lives and their mom told me they are moving. I am heartbroken to see them leave. They have been a part of our family. So, it’s tough to see them grow up or move on.”

The adults also all donate their time to the show. “That unto itself is probably what separates this show from the rest,” said Schur. “People are willing to give their time, their talents and their hearts to this event is so rewarding. And I think it sets a good example to the kids and teens in the show.”

“Every person is blessed with some kind of talent. And I’m sure we all know people who hoard their talents. When God shines a light we don’t hide it under a bushel basket,” said Schur.

“Hopefully, in our show we make people comfortable with sharing their gifts,” said Schur. “And year after year, God sends us who and what we need to produce this show.”

For those who turn out this year, beyond the cause, Schur said they should expect “great talent, great fun, great memories, and of course, great spirit.”

The Holiday Showcase of Stars presents… “Can’t Stop The Spirit” on Saturday, Dec. 3 at St. Paul Catholic High School, 1001 Stafford Ave., Bristol at 7 p.m.

‘Legends’ still doesn’t disappoint

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Tribute shows tend to have a bad reputation. And tribute shows that arrive via Las Vegas have a definite cheese factor that stick to them.

But, I’ve seen “Legends in Concert” a number of times over the years at Foxwoods Resort Casino and I’m never let down. There is nothing cheesy about them.

I was able to catch the opening night (Nov. 25) of the current run, which sets up shop in Connecticut until Jan. 1, and had a blast.

First of all, as is the case with its current incarnation now playing at the casino, the performers are real performers.

Yes, they work within the framework of paying homage to Elvis (Bill Cherry), Michael Jackson (J Lucas), Prince (Frank Moore), Whitney Houston (Cynthia Minx), and Taylor Swift (Elizabeth Scarborough). Their singing voices will offer inflections that reflect those stars. Their dance moves will be based upon the originals. And they will do what they can to look like their chosen stars.

But the bottom line with most every Legends cast member I’ve seen is that they are top notch performers.

I’ve seen Cherry before as Elvis. And his 1969 Elvis is spot on. His voice is right. His movements are just right. And he looks the part. But more importantly, however, is his performance has an ease of someone who knows how to embody the character fully. When he speaks to the audience, it’s not mimickry, it’s more improvisation. He is also confident enough to select a set list that strays from the obvious. For instance, “CC Rider” was never a signature Elvis tune, but Cherry attacks it with aplomb. And if the song wasn’t the Elvis aficionados’ favorite track, he made them remember it and reconsider it.

J Lucas as Michael Jackson also was—from a dancing point of view—one of the strongest tributes to the King of Pop I’ve seen. His dance moves are explosive and aggressive, giving a clear indication that his training is top notch. Even if you weren’t a Jackson fan, Lucas’s dancing was hypnotic.

Moore was one of the evening’s performers who actually looked like his chosen celebrity, Prince. He had the appearance down pat. But, he also had the musical chops to match the appearance and he did a great job with tracks like “Little Red Corvette” and “I Would Die 4 U.”

Cynthia Minx stepped out on stage as Whitney Houston. Of the performers, she probably looked least like her chosen star. But Minx also was probably the most musically talented of the performers of the night. Her vocal were impeccable. And she demonstrated her skill on Houston’s technically difficult and emotionally draining, “I Will Always Love You.”

Elizabeth Scarborough was charming and endearing as Taylor Swift. She also, at least for this evening, the only performer tackling a contemporary artist still alive and breathing. (Tony Kishman, who played Sir Paul McCartney, did not perform at the opening night show at Foxwoods.) She probably offered one of the most physically trying performances of the evening as she sang “Shake It Off” with all sorts of cheerleader moves. (Lucas really moved a lot but his performance didn’t require him to sing and dance at the same tim as he evoked Michael Jackson.) She also offered up a performance that the real Taylor Swift would approve of.

Secondly, aside from the “stars,” Legends works because they have a crackerjack band on stage. The musicians really push the songs, and inject them with an incredible energy that is more in the spirit of a live pop performance than just a tribute to a star. The backup singers also do a great job tackling a variety of genres to give the songs more vocal depth.

Thirdly, the dancers are fabulous. Again, like the musical performers, they don’t just go through the motions. They push themselves and several of them were breaking into some serious sweat on Nov. 25.

At the end of the evening, the audience clearly had enjoyed themselves… offering up a standing ovation to everyone involved.

“Legends in Concert” takes the stage on Tuesdays at 2 and 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. until Jan. 1. For tickets, go to Foxwoods.com.

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