sing and dance and look like the stars they emulate. The successful “In
Tribute” shows of Performing Celebrity Impersonators continue to attract
audiences worldwide since the early 1980’s.
shows can sustain the lure of 25+ years of success and audience
approval. As the curtain falls at the close of each show, the “stars”
surround themselves with the men, women and children who many have never
had the opportunity to see their favorite celebrities up close to touch
them and others have never seen, or could afford the ticket prices to
enjoy them on stage in concert.
Celebrity Impersonators are “actors” performing a unique role since they
not only must act-like, sing-like, dance-like, move-like and talk-like
the celebrity they emulate, they must also look like their character
while in costume… and they must have the technical knowledge and
experience of performing on stage. They have a responsibility to the
artist they portray to be as perfect in their act as possible and, in
doing so, honor them and their image.
history of impersonations reaches back to the late-1800’s when Tony
Pastor (1838-1908) produced the Variety Shows in New York when acts
mimicked, in comedy, the famous and political figures of the times. Soon
similar shows developed in Europe creating an interchange of American
and British performers.
than a century later the art of impersonation changed from the mocking
comedy acts to the pure tribute roles that artists perform today. What
is interesting, however, is that many of the shows featuring the
performances of Celebrity Impersonators on worldwide stages today have
the same structure of the early Variety Shows; that each performer
appear only once in each show…and rarely for more than 15 minutes. Also,
similarly, today’s impersonators are in flight from one city and country
to perform worldwide.
than 10 years ago there were approximately 1,500 impersonators and
look-alikes in this industry; today there are many tens of thousands of
artists performing on showroom stages and those who are movie stand-ins,
others who model in photo shoots for advertisements, who are filmed in
commercials and are also found in catalogs for clothing, automobile
sales and every kind of merchandising where the client is looking for a
double-look of resemblance to sell their products.
use of the Celebrity Impersonator has become Big Business, creating
thousands of producers, agents, choreographers, makeup artists,
costumers, wig makers, prosthetic designers, stage managers and crews
and staffs for all …as well as webmasters, promoters, media and everyone
else connected to the industry.
Celebrity Impersonators and Look-alikes have become well-paid “Stars.”
do the real stars think about those who portray them? Most enjoy the
tribute and are flattered to see themselves created on stage…many as
they were in their prime. Perhaps they consider the shows as an
advertisement to enhance the popularity of their own concerts since the
real stars cannot be everywhere. Most appreciate watching the acts on
stage and marvel at the accuracy of the performance.
Imitation is the purest form of immortality…anon. Immorality comes with
a price… fees payable to the heirs of the deceased stars and attorneys
who represent them and those who paid for a license to perform as the
stars with no concern over the value of their performance.
popularity of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Buddy Holly and others who are
remembered by their generation and discovered and loved by generations
who followed, continues being a flame that could possibly have
diminished without the continuous impersonator’s re-creations of the
once popular stars, keeping their memories alive. The Celebrity
Impersonator, however, cannot expect to be more popular than the
celebrity he/she emulates nor booked in the role of the character in the
event the producer or client has no interest in the performer. If the
celebrity, living or dead, is not popular, the artist/impersonator is
out of business unless he/she develops another character.
While most of the impersonators on stage do enjoy their roles and work
very hard to perfect their act, it is interesting that some feel less
contented that they are unable to secure the prestige of their own
stardom, performing as themselves, and do not recognize the value of the
“actor” they have become as in this unique form of performing arts.
Others are very proud of their achievements…especially those who have
developed more than one character role, making more bookings available
all Celebrity Impersonators have been able to continue the rigors and
discipline of the hard work of maintaining their performances and a few
have been known to be unable to set aside their own egos to accept
direction and responsibility for the welfare of the show.
major difficulty is age, a common factor in any form of performing arts,
to play the part of the star as the star performed in his/her prime. For
example: Marilyn Monroe passed away at the glamorous age of 36 and not
many 50 year-olds can continue creating her image…where Elvis had many
looks as he grew older and, unless you are an Elvis fan or an old movie
buff, not many really remember what he looked like when he was in his
prime and are willing to accept any resemblance of the “king” as long as
he can pour himself into a jumpsuit.
Pertaining to living popular personalities, still in their prime, it is
the responsibility of the impersonator, or the look-alike, to upgrade
their look and act. With hairstyles, costumes, makeup and songs and
dances in order to conform to the new Cher, for example, they continue
to invest in their careers.
© The Entertainment Network 2005
Fogelman is the Director of the Entertainment Network and the Talent
Referral Agent of that agency based in Las Vegas since 1996. She is also
the Editor of the Network website and the writer of its monthly
newsletters. A published author, Bea is considered an authority in the