Véronic Delivers Fresh, First-Rate Take on Impressionist Genre

veronic-show3creditdenise-truscello.jpgHeresy, sacrilege, ignorance—call it what you will, pop-culturally-speaking:

Unfortunately, this critic can’t differentiate between the vocal variations of Rihanna, Beyoncé and Shakira. Fortunately, I can between Donna Summer, Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. Happily, Véronic builds a helluva generational bridge.

Billed only by her first name and as “one singer … 50 voices,” French-Canadian Véronic DiCaire, a Celine Dion protégé (yes, she does her, too), is one impressive impressionist in her new showcase in the Jubilee Theater at Bally’s. (Originally scheduled through August 31, it has been extended through December 21.)

Sometimes the spacious stage threatens to swallow up this relatively intimate show. Yet Véronic and her six-woman dance troupe give it a production sheen that lends dimension: video screens pin-wheeling with animation and celebrity photos, and structural cleverness for the impressions, including an ’80s segment, a divas tribute, a Lady Gaga/Pink/Katy Perry/Rihanna sing-off, and a “Grand Dolly Opry” showcase of country songbirds.

Sweetly likable in a gee-willikers! way when chatting up the crowd, she immediately gets us on her side, then backs up her appeal with an unerring talent for mimicry, the impressions often seamlessly tumbling over each other in song snippets (backed by recorded tracks). Should one not engage you for a few seconds, the next three will.

Beyond the aforementioned performers, her repertoire also includes (but isn’t limited to) Adele, Christina Aguilera, Taylor Swift, Billie Holiday, Sheryl Crow, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, Annie Lennox, Debbie Harry, Janet Jackson, Madonna, and on, and on, and on.

Letting us in on her secrets, she informs us that nailing Anita Baker’s slurry sensuality begins with affecting a giant yawn, Aguilera is “all in the growl,” and Mariah Carey requires pretending “to be a dog trainer, hitting notes only dogs can hear.”

Particularly touching, in a segment on singers who also tickle the keyboard, is her take on the late Karen Carpenter, with an eerily accurate re-creation of her angelic tone. Wrapping up this voice-travaganza is a cascade of luminaries, climaxed by a goose-bumps-raising Whitney Houston.

Imitation, as the expression goes, is the highest form of flattery, and few can flatter on the level of this lady.

STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Does gay—at least in a book musical with social messages tacked on—play in Vegas? With the premature shuttering of the Priscilla Queen of the Desert tour at the Venetian on July 21, it’s a fair question.

Originally scheduled for 11 weeks, the camp musical was scaled back to nine weeks before its hot-pink bus prop was even wheeled onstage, then called it quits after five weeks following what producers called “an analysis of ticket-sale trends.” In audience vernacular: a bomb.

Sure, you can blame business factors, such as Cirque du Soleil’s recent ticket discounting, but as theorized in this column in April, with gay marriage such a controversial flashpoint in our political discourse, an out-and-waaaay-proud musical was likely to run into ticket-sale trauma. Add it to the Vegas failures of Avenue Q and Hairspray, both with gay undercurrents and gags, and it’s a disquieting pattern.

Sadly, the outrageously entertaining Priscilla was the best time many people could have had but didn’t have. Or refused to have. Call their affliction “entertain-ophobia.”

Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.

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ONE MORE TURNAROUND: Until about five minutes ago I didn’t know that Daryl Hall and John Oates, who play the Joint on August 2-3 ($41-$81), recorded a song called “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)” back in 1973. Apparently Oates wrote the song for Hall’s then-girlfriend Sara Allen, a flight attendant who would later become Hall’s songwriting partner. (She’s the Sara of “Sara Smile.”) I confess I’m afraid to listen to the song, because there’s a very good chance I’ll hate it.