Where: Royal Theatre
When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $55 (Royal Theatre box office,
250 380 6121)
It's the most difficult show the man of a thousand voices has ever attempted.
AndrÃ©-Philippe Gagnon's One-Man Hit Parade is just that. For 90 minutes, the Montreal impressionist provides a potted history of popular music, imitating everyone from Bill Haley to latter-day heroes such as Justin Timberlake. The list includes: Guns 'n' Roses, Susan Boyle, Barry White, Elvis, James Taylor, Maroon 5, Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Gordon Lightfoot, the Guess Who, Elton John, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Gino Vannelli and more.
"Vocally, it's the most demanding show I've ever had," Gagnon, 51, said in an interview from Montreal.
But why is it so difficult? After all, Gagnon is renowned for pulling out dozens of quick-draw impersonations in performance. In the mid-'80s, his breakthrough was replicating the song We Are the World, mimicking the slew of pop heroes who participated in the recording.
In 2009, Gagnon decided to hatch a new concept. He enlisted the Moment Factory, a multimedia outfit, to help him create a slick, interactive show. Montreal-based Moment Factory has worked with such notable talents as CÃ©line Dion, Nine Inch Nails and Cirque du Soleil.
The result is One-Man Hit Parade, which debuted in 2010. The show allows Gagnon to interact with video images and two giant iPod-like projects (he calls them "aPods").
"When I do Guns 'n' Roses, for example, if I hit the wall, the images will break, just like glass. When I do Midnight Oil [singer] Peter Garrett, a big flame will follow me whenever I move," he said.
Aside from the vocal pyrotechnics, One-Man Hit Parade is tricky because it requires that Gagnon work interactively - and very precisely - with a fast-moving, tech-heavy show.
Gagnon's big showbiz break was performing We Are the World on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the mid-'80s, reaching a audience of 15-million viewers. Afterwards, the international offers poured in.
The impressionist says one of his biggest challenges is keeping his voice in shape on the road. He tries to eat well, get plenty of sleep and rest his voice (minimal talking) immediately after performing. Because hotel rooms can be dry, he brings along a humidifier.
"That's something I like to have," Gagnon said. "I also go in the shower where it's very hot. I get some steam."
One of his most celebrated routines is imitating Bill Clinton playing the saxophone, something the former American president did during his 1992 campaign. Twenty years later, it might seem dated - a bit like Rich Little imitating Richard Nixon. But Gagnon still pulls it out. He says old fans like it. And new ones may not have seen it.
"Afterwards, I'm sure we'll have many guys who'll try to sound like a saxophone, and they'll just adapt that for hunting geese or ducks," he joked.
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