If your fantasy is over-the-top gowns and unitards, jewelry that could be seen from space, and hairstyles that would shame a peacock, Marino and his dazzling bevy of talent deliver in spades.
Can we talk? There’s way more to Divas than a man in a convincing Joan Rivers costume
“I never try to look like a woman,” female impersonator Frank Marino once said, “I want to look like the top of a wedding cake. You can go next door to see the girl next door. When people come to ‘Divas,’ I want to make sure they see fantasy.”
If your fantasy is over-the-top gowns and unitards, jewelry that could be seen from space, and hairstyles that would shame a peacock, Marino and his dazzling bevy of talent deliver in spades. Not so much drag queens as drag goddesses, the cast of “Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas” takes the stage one by one to disco and pop songs familiar from gay bars across the country and dares you to be man enough for a faux-woman like this.
People go to drag shows for all kinds of reasons. Some love the fashion and accessories. Others are genuinely turned on. Some like to laugh at the insidious humor of a man dressed as a woman in a patriarchal society. Others go to see the most impassioned pop diva impression you could ever see. No one puts in the effort like a drag queen. When one of Marino’s actors takes the stage as Cher, you would think someone literally turned back time and you are watching the filming of the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video.
Marino has occupied showbiz in the female impersonation space for over thirty years, much of it defined by his razor-sharp Joan Rivers impersonation. Joan used to be a fan, then she got sick of it and sued Marino, which only boosted his career with a shot of notoriety. Marino still kicks off his current show as the late Ms. Rivers. Although he doesn’t affect the voice like he used to, the pantsuit and blow-dried flip are spot-on. After each act he struts back onstage in one of a series of glamorous ball gowns, some designed by Bob Mackie himself, others that just ape his style. His wigs are mountainous and ornamental enough to be costume pieces in “Amadeus”.
From this chic perch, Marino emcees a revue that includes classic impersonations like Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, and Madonna; but also incorporates more contemporary impersonations, including Britney Spears, Pink, Katy Perry, and of course Lady Gaga. Muscular male dancers gyrate through impressive synchronized choreography, their wardrobe moving through variations on the theme of “shirtless.” Be careful about bringing your mother to this show, unless you fancy seeing your mother get a little hot under the collar.
While the illusion is always uncanny, the performance quality varies. Some of Marino’s rotating cast is just more into it than others. Some are natural performers, others don’t quite deliver the goods. Some are obviously lip-syncing; others you could swear missed their calling as American Idol. Pink and Cher were particularly on point; Madonna and Gaga have probably been done better. Tickets start at a cool $71.
Marino re-emerges between songs to preen and interact with his crowd in the upstairs ballroom of the LINQ Hotel and Casino. He cracks raunchy jokes, some hilarious – “Before I got this job I worked as a lampshade in a whorehouse. They wouldn’t give me one of the good jobs!” Some are more face-palmers than knee-slappers. Marino has this schtick down cold, though. He’s easy to like. If you disagree, at least he’s bananas to look at.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a great drag show put on by a Grand Dame of the art form, the high points of Frank Marino’s “Divas Las Vegas” have the power to transport you with verisimilitude, production value, and overall fun.