As of February 12th I find myself exactly back in the spot where I began 10 years ago, to the day, when I first came to Las Vegas to play in Legends in Concert, simply as their first string Elton John Impersonator.It was big news for me that I would actually be playing the famous Las Vegas strip. I had agreed to a 3 month contract, and was to return to the grueling one night Elton shows on the Jersey Shore, stand-up comedy dives in New York City and the endless, fruitless stream of auditions for theatrical plays, TV shows, movies and commercials in the Big Apple.
As I had all but given up on my “recording career,” and faced the fact that I had moved on to become America’s favorite Elton Impersonator, I thought to myself, “at least I am the best at something.”
The 3 month Legends contract turned into 9 months, and eventually I was moving into a west side home and selling my New York Apartment. Then it dawned on me that I was moving to Las Vegas, which was something I had never even considered in my wildest dreams…or nightmares. Being a New York boy, there was one way to look at this move, and that was to seek out new horizons. After my stint at Legends, I felt like I needed a change and that other endeavors were calling.
I began the local TV commercial market, and had done 36 commercials in 12 months. Then onto getting an agent in Los Angeles, which can be a life long search in it self. I drove my poor VW back and forth a thousand times to LA, and went to every audition and “look-see” that my new LA agent could muster for me. A year later, I was on NBC doing a sitcom and filming numerous TV pilots. 2 years later, I landed lead parts independent films and SHOWTIME, numbering 9 to date, and auditioning as a comedian and impressionist for anyone who would listen. I took the occasional Elton John Impersonation gig from time to time, but my focus was to be dressed as myself when I got on stage, and when I left it. I was once told by my friend, author Quentin Crisp that, “when opportunity knocks, be ready and make sure that it recognizes you.”
Eventually landing the lead in Neil Simon Play “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” I got noticed by some of the Las Vegas press. When I finally did get the opportunity to star in my own show, “VOICES IN MY HEAD,” at the Riviera, here in Las Vegas, I thought that that would be the end of the Elton Era. It had been very good to me. I had seen the world on other people’s dimes, played in front of as many at 15,000 people and felt what it would be like to be a mega star. Still, during those moments, I felt like a fraud, wondering if I was talented or was the audience familiar with and fans of the “suit,” wig and glasses that I wore during these moments of grandeur.
When Atlantic City called, and offered me headline status on the big stages, billboards and all the spoils of the fleeting “star” treatment, I jumped on it, and was so happy that both audiences and the press received me and my 21 cast member show with open arms and rave reviews. At last it was me on stage, not the “suit,” receiving the applause. This filled that void and answered that burning question. I am capable and talented enough to make audiences laugh and cry and applaud, which had always been the goal.
Shortly after I hung up the Elton suite for good, Hollywood Squares called and needed an Elton Impersonator who could also act and be spontaneous. At last, the marriage of the “suit” and the chance to fill it with my own wit and ability. I got the part and was a “celebrity” host and, not only got paid as a union actor, but also got to keep the $8,000.00 that I won! It was then that I realized that I had come full circle. The “suit” gains the instant familiarity and comfort from the audience, but that dies down within a moment or two. It is my work as an actor, singer and musician that carries the part and performs the show. This seemed to fill that feeling of emptiness and fraud, and I realized that it was all fresh again; a new approach to an old song.
So a few months ago, when Legends In Concert asked me to be in the show again, and suggested that I host as a Musical Comedian and impressionist exactly 10 years to the date I hit the stage as “just Elton,” it was I who suggested that I do the Elton Character along with my comedy and impressions. It amazed me that they thought that I wouldn’t want to do it, and that I seemed like I was past that era of my career.
So happily, I enter the stage twice nightly as musical comedian Stephen Sorrentino, once the guy who was just Elton when he left in ’97, and now returns with all the abilities that have brought me the blessings of success, and a fresh approach to my old friend “the suit,” but this time, proudly filled as me.