Las Vegas' Best Imitators

The best Las Vegas show impersonators.
By: Lark Ellen Gould

Las Vegas entertainers provide “faux-midable” competition for the celebrities and vocalists they impersonate, living or dead. Elvis imitation is practically an industry unto itself in this town. Joan Rivers, Britney Spears, Barbra Streisand and Michael Jackson are part of a long list of stunning faux talent who grace the stages of the Strip on any given evening. Here’s our list of impersonator favorites in Las Vegas shows.

Terry Fator, a puppeteer, ventriloquist and celebrity impersonator who won America’s Got Talent in 2007, says, “It only took me 32 years to become an overnight sensation.” A true student of the voice-throwing greats, Fator takes the gifts of Edgar Bergen, Buffalo Bob Smith, Shari Lewis, Wayland Flowers and Jim Henson and mixes in the pipes of Garth Brooks, Rod Stewart, Etta James, Louis Armstrong, Axl Rose, Michael Jackson, even Ozzy Osbourne and, of course, Elvis. The show is star-packed even though numbers such as Fator’s version of Etta James’ “At Last” -- might come from a 2-foot Miss Piggy lookalike named “Vicki the Cougar.”

Showtimes: Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through 2013.
Watching this steroidal talent morph through 5-dozen celebrity personas in 80 minutes makes you break a sweat in your seat. Brown practically leaves comedy impersonation greats (and early mentors) Rich Little and the late Danny Gans in the dust as he moves through staccato flashes of Ted Koppel, Elton John, Mike Tyson and Garth Brooks. You’ll see Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias in there and lightning fast glimpses of Dustin Hoffman followed by Ozzy Osbourne, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, a drunken Billy Joel and a sensational Louis Armstrong. Blink and you’ll miss something in this packed 90-minutes of pure entertainment.

Showtimes: Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. into 2013.
Sharon Owens and Sebastian Anzaldo create dead ringers for the artists they impersonate, down to the wink of those blue eyes and the emotion-packed pitch of “People.” There’s chemistry between them and for a comfortably long moment, the suspended belief that you are in the presence of 2 of the world’s timeless talents.

Showtimes: Monday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m. through November 2011.
It’s not easy going from he to she, but Frank Marino does it better than anyone else in Las Vegas in his 75-minute comedy and song-filled show. Marino has been doing diva acts in Las Vegas for so long the city’s mayor recently named a day after him. He’s most famous for channeling the spirit of Joan Rivers -- gowns, facelifts and all -- and running hilarious monologues in Rivers’ voice. He honed his Rivers’ impersonations along with other ladies of talent in the popular stage production of Evening at La Cage, which played at the Riviera for 25 years. More recently, Marino went solo, with his cast of female personas that includes Britney Spears, Cher, Diana Ross, Beyonce, Madonna, Dolly Parton and Lady Gaga.

Showtimes: Saturday through Thursday at 10 p.m. through 2011.
Next to Jubilee! it does not get more seasoned than this show in Las Vegas. Legends started at the Imperial Palace in 1983 as a troupe of talented performers channeling Elvis, Marilyn, Buddy Holly, Diana Ross and Cher (among others) in solo and group impressions. The troupe expanded the program to include the likes of Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and now, Lady Gaga. The pace is fast, the music infectious. It’s a Las Vegas legend now, as much a part of the city fabric as gaming and buffets.

Showtimes: Sunday through Friday at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. through 2014.

Impersonation shows, whether comedy, crooning or crowded tributes, make a comely complement in a city known for the real thing playing right down the street.
Lark Ellen Gould has written more than 5 books about Las Vegas. She has seen all the imitators in one act or another.
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