Whether it’s facing the man in the mirror, letting emotions take them over or doing it their own way, tribute artists have plenty of stories to tell about their journey to embodying their idols.
The Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton, brings many top impersonators to town this season for shows filled with classic pop, folk, R&B and big band hits. The season kicks off Saturday, Sept. 9, with “Summer Breezin’/Stand Bac,” tributes to Seals & Crofts, America and Fleetwood Mac, and homages to such stars as John Denver, Frank Sinatra, the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson follow throughout the year.
“People have incredible connections to the music of their lives,” explained Carrie Colaiezzi, director of theater operations. “Our vision was to offer our community popular, time-honored music that spans several generations.”
“It is going to be a time travel,” said John Acosta, who performs as Barry Gibb in “Bee Gees Gold,” set for Saturday, Oct. 14. “It’s something where I want people to close their eyes and remember a time that that generation had great music. Of course, even if there is a crowd of the new generation, they get a chance to know what the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ experience was all about.”
Acosta’s show lasts about 90 minutes and runs through the best parts of the Bee Gees’ career, he said, starting with the early stages in the 1960s when the group sounded “very British, very Beatles-ish,” before the brothers Gibb transformed themselves into “disco dance gods with the falsetto, the look and hair.”
“These songs stood the test of time because of the ingredients, the integrity and the writing of that time,” Acosta said.
Forged from a different time and place, Michael Firestone relives the hits of the King of Pop during his “I Am King” tribute to Michael Jackson, set for Saturday, Nov. 11.
“I’m just trying to hit every single iconic look and different eras,” Firestone said of his 90-minute program, which features backup dancers and a full band plus top-of-the line costumes.
He’s been impersonating Jackson for almost 20 years but said the show he brings to Scranton is his best yet.
“There are some artists put here to do this, and (Jackson) was born a great artist,” Firestone said. “He was meant to be, and in 50 years, people will still be trying to sound like him. His music will last forever.”
For Cary Hoffman — star of “My Sinatra,” scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16 — finding success as his version of Ol’ Blue Eyes means the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
“As a kid, it’s all I wanted, was to be him and sing like him. That’s what the show is about: why?” Hoffman said. “Some people say that it has to do with my losing two fathers. I made (Sinatra’s) voice a kind of father figure. The moment I heard Sinatra, my life was different forever. The sound immediately entranced me.”
Music was already in Hoffman’s blood thanks to his singer mother and uncles who served as studio musicians for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé and even Sinatra. Hoffman spent countless hours in his teenage bedroom practicing his Sinatra impersonation, he recalled, and joked that he later was the only kid in history to receive a standing ovation for singing at his own bar mitzvah.
“Right then was affirmation that I could croon,” Hoffman said with a laugh.
His show blends his takes on Sinatra classics from the late ’50s through ’70s while also recounting his own love for the music and anecdotes that include meeting the star in the 1960s. Hoffman’s storytelling transcends simple mimicry like a wedding singer might do, he noted, and aims to transport his audience for a bout of joyful escapism.
“Sinatra was kind of more than a singer. He represented a kind of freedom and looseness,” Hoffman said. “He told us you can be yourself and anything you want. Sinatra personified rebellion before rock and roll.”
No matter which tribute plays to one’s tastes, the shows promise to bond multigenerational audiences.
“Musical tributes offer a way to bring a sense of familial connectedness through live performances that modern technology just cannot deliver,” Colaiezzi said. “It evokes memories and emotions that are shared with one another.”
The Theater at North Concert Series
All shows held at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted at 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton. Tickets available through the box office Mondays through Fridays or by calling 877-987-6487. For more information, visit The Theater at North.
“Summer Breezin’/Stand Bac,” tributes to Seals & Crofts, America and Fleetwood Mac, Saturday, Sept. 9
“My Sinatra” starring Cary Hoffman, Saturday, Sept. 16
“Back Home Again,” a tribute to John Denver, Saturday, Sept. 30
“Bee Gees Gold,” Saturday, Oct. 14
“Snow Queen — The Musical,” a children’s sing-along, Sunday, Nov. 5, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“I Am King,” the Michael Jackson Experience starring Michael Firestone, Saturday, Nov. 11
“Juke Box Heroes — Live,” with the Mahoney Brothers, Saturday, Nov. 18
“Jimmy Sturr Christmas: From Our House To Your House,” Sunday, Dec. 3, 3 p.m.
“Home for the Holidays,” by the Northern Appalachian Wind Symphony, Saturday, Dec. 16