By paul motter
I have to admit that I felt somewhat skeptical when NCL first announced "Legends," the Las Vegas company that specializes in "tribute" artists, as one of the featured performance acts on board Norwegian Epic.
In fact, my pre-conceived notions could not have been more wrong. Like many things about Epic that have surprised me, the Epic debut of this show last Sunday night was magnitudes better than I ever expected. I have to give credit to Richard Kilman, the new Director of Entertainment for NCL in only on his second year on the job, for jumping leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Norwegian Epic already has the best cruise ship entertainment ever, taking it to levels I honestly never expected to see at sea.
The three artists represented in "Legends at Sea," are Tina Turner, Madonna and Elvis. Now, I expected the show to be three mostly solo performing look-alike "tribute artists" singing medleys of the real stars' hits backed up by the "Epic Orchestra" reading charts they had rehearsed a few times.
Wrong! In fact Legends at Sea is a complete production with its own hot band and five backup dancers, all of them seasoned professional Las Vegas chorus men and ladies, with several costume changes and choreography emulating the original artists' own original stage shows.
The show starts with the Tina Turner tribute artist, who transforms the stage into a Tina Turner concert, with all of the stage patter about "rollin' on the river" you probably remember and all the great body moves you identify with the real Tina, and her backup singers and dancers.
The next artist is Madonna. She has all of the controversial costumes "the" Madonna is famous for, confabulating Catholicism and sexuality for a version of "Like a Virgin" that is real enough to have you reliving the first time you ever heard the song. The choreography is perfect, with the dancers dressed like provocative (and controversial) sexy nuns and priests - just the way Madonna would want it.
Last up is Elvis. The entertainer here is best as the young Elvis. Although he is extraordinarily handsome, he almost looks too young for even the early Elvis hits like Hound Dog. He was the most nervous and least polished performer but he uses it in his act adeptly, just as the real Elvis would have done, with lines like "I'm dyin' of hot up here." Wiping the sweat off his brow, the handkerchiefs are given to the equally swooning ladies in the audience. One particularly lovely Aussie lass suggested, "if you're that hot why don't you just take your pants off?" to which mock-Elvis drawled, "This ain't that kind o' show, ma'am."
Original film footage of the real artists doing almost the same moves as you are seeing onstage is shown on the large video screens bookending the stage. It shows the confidence of these tribute performers that they can be compared to the originals side by side.
Ironically, while the concept of "Legends at Sea" is not much different from many standard cruise ship shows that are a "Salute to..." anything, this show exceeds any typical cruise ship show by miles. These lead performers were born to play these roles in terms of looks and talent; the choreography and its execution is equal to what you would see in a real concert by these artists, and the musicianship of the band, which only works in these Legends shows and has done so for years, is first rate.
The main "Legends at Sea" show will only show in the Epic Theater six times on every cruise - two shows a night on the three nights Blue Man Group are not in residence. That means seats are limited so make reservations. A more cabaret style show called "Legends Unplugged" will be shown in the Manhattan dining room. That show will only be shown three times total - no reservations, first come first serve, and each artist does just a very short set. Then the backup singers and dancers do their own set - a tribute to Motown classics which shows off the very real talent of the "chorus."
As I have been telling readers following my daily blog "Live from Norwegian Epic" - be sure to make all Epic show reservations online 45 days before the cruise sails. Meanwhile, there will be several performers who are not pre-announced at all and for which no reservations are possible. These performers will be announced on the day they are appearing and the usual venue is the 217 seat Spiegel Tent. These shows are first come-first serve, so get there early.
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