Legends - Central Pier, Blackpool
When Legends made its Blackpool debut 14 seasons ago Lady Gaga had only recently left her New York convent school. Both have done quite nicely in the years since.
While other shows have lowered their ambitions, reduced their weeks or vanished completely, Legends has expanded to add Christmas and Easter editions to its roster and continued to shuffle the pack of just who it shines its ever more complex spotlight on.
This summer that means adding Lady Gaga and The Blues Brothers to Freddie Mercury and Robbie Williams in show one and Jon Bon Jovi to Elvis Presley, Meatloaf and Buddy Holly in show two.
It also sees popular vocalist Leanne Fury play much more of a role with an impressive opening solo spot and providing strong backing vocals throughout the proceedings.
State of the art sound and lights are part of the show’s appeal and this summer a new thrust stage gives a reach-out-and-touch feel to the proceedings.
Since its rather more humble Blackpool debut all those seasons ago tribute acts have, rightly or wrongly, become two a penny in the resort. But Legends is different. It has always kept ahead of the pack and treats its artists seriously. Elsewhere may settle for backing tracks and empty stages but here there’s a big sounding three piece band and an energetic four piece dance team – plus video screens and the always welcome funnyman Tom Bright as host and compere.
Monique Mitchell-Wood’s Lady Gaga is a real discovery – though dinner at her place must be a hoot because husband Andy Wood is show two’s Jon Bon Jovi. She has a great voice and genuine stage charisma belting through Lady G’s biggest hits with real conviction.
Matt Byrne’s Robbie Williams tribute grows stronger each season – and he makes full use of the new stage extension with two sets of well received solo songs and Take That hits.
The Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s 1978 Saturday Night Live sketch creation, have long had a life of their own – and not always a good one. Predictably, hard working Andy Wills (he’s also Buddy Holly in show two and Brian May later in show one) and Jimmy Love (also Meatloaf and in another incarnation Elton John) instantly prove to be one of the better Jake and Elwood tributes. Closing show one is Dean Richardson’s Freddie Mercury with a well delivered set of Queen hits – and a guest appearance of Lady G again for a duet on Under Pressure.
No wonder there’s a nightly standing ovation.