Liberace, that Italian boy wonder
whose first gig was as a solo pianist at the age of 16 with the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra, went on to become the flamboyant pianist we all
know. It is said, he became the highest paid entertainer for a while in
America. Many pianists have impersonated Liberace, but none better
than John Wilder, who is playing in Folsom at the Sutter Street
Theatre. You don’t have to travel to Tahoe’s casinos or take a cruise
this January to hear the phenomenal John Wilder make a piano stand up
and dance. He is “Liberace,” costumed in glittery diamonds, furs, and a
white tux. Maestro Wilder’s fingers fly so fast up and down the
keyboard, it’s a musical blur as he lets fly Latin and boogie woogie
Liberace starts the show with Flight
of the Bumble Bee and just like that bee buzzes the audience for the
rest of the evening, playing well-known songs like Chattanooga Choo-Choo
and The Impossible Dream. Between Liberace’s solos at the piano, there
is a host of impersonators who entertain. Steve Lawrence (David
Valprado) and Eydie Gorme (Eileen Beaver) croon I Wonder Why…I’m Just in
Love, blending a fine duet performance. Liberace returns to thrill the
audience with his rendition of Sophisticated Lady, inserting arpeggios
and runs at will, all the time beaming and flashing smiles at the
audience. His hands are on automatic.
Elvis (David Valprado), takes
Liberace’s advice as to how to improve his act: Elvis reappears
flaunting white satin bell-bottoms and an Elvis pompadour.
What does every cabaret show need?
That’s right, a good child act. And this show has one: The Osmonds
(Benjamin, Joshua and Jonathan Matta)! These brothers, in matching
flashy shirts, sing acapella harmony. They are terrific, including a
little dancing and comedy in their routine when the little fella grabs
his big brother’s arm which is flung across his face and pulls it down
so he can have some of the spotlight.
There is more comedy to come when
Carol Burnett (Connie Mockenhaupt) appears as a cleaning lady pushing
her pail and mop. It’s not long before she’s leaning under the hood and
dusting the inside of the grand piano as Liberace is playing. I won’t
mention the hilarious disaster which follows.
After Carol Burnett’s clumsy
dusting, John Wilder (Liberace) performs his versions of “Tea for Two”
and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” They are everything and more in
his hands, these two classic American songs. The talent keeps coming
when Liberace proudly announces the next performer--cartoon character,
Betty Boop. The curtains part and a ruby red, shimmering evening-gowned
Betty Boop (Rebekah Matta) peers timidly through the curtain, then steps
on stage and sings her little heart out coyly, sweetly, brainlessly,
just the way only Betty could.
Glitter, extravagance, rhinestones,
diamonds, furs, capes, and fabulous piano playing-- it’s all at the
Sutter Street Theatre in Folsom.