by MIKE CHAIKEN
“Legends in Concert” comes back to Foxwoods Resort Casino’s Fox Theater now through December, bringing a cast of performers who pay homage to some of music history’s big stars.
In this installment, which continues through Dec. 31, the show showcases the music of the young Michael Jackson, David Bowie, George Michael, Whitney Houston, and the Blues Brothers.
Eric Martin will perform as Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers. Nathaniel Cullors takes the stage as the young Michael Jackson.
Although both performers take on iconic figures of entertainment as part of “Legends,” both Martin and Cullors were performers many years before joining the “Legends” cast.
However, in Martin’s case, the pursuit of a stage career didn’t run smoothly.
“I have loved to sing ever since I was a little boy,” said Martin in an email interview. “I tried out for a school play in fourth grade. But, I didn’t get the part and didn’t handle rejection too well. So I didn’t try out for anything else for quite a while.”
But, Martin said, during his freshman year in high school, his mother signed him up for the boys chorus over his objections. However, Martin said, “It changed my life.”
“By the end of semester, I was the first freshman to be elevated to the top vocal group in school history,” said Martin. “Over the next four years, I performed many concerts both vocally and in the band. I also, started acting and was in five plays during high school.” He went on to be a musical theater major with a slew of credits to his name, including a stint as news reporter and becoming a gospel singer with two albums to his name.
“I’ve been singing ever since I could talk,” said Cullors. “Dancing and acting just kind of came naturally as time went on. I’ve always been attracted to entertaining people, ever since I was little. Being able to use my talents— whether it is through song, dance, or monologue— to move and inspire people is the best part about performing to me.”
Both Martin and Cullors have learned to become their “Legends” on stage.
Martin, however, wasn’t expecting for his life to take a turn to Blues.
“My agent called me about a producer who was looking for an ‘Elwood’ to be in a big tribute show,” said Martin. “He had seen my acting reel and thought I was perfect for the part. I liked The Blues Brothers, but really had no interest and respectfully declined.”
“The producer continued to inquire about me over the next three weeks, as he was having weekly auditions to find an ‘Elwood,'” During the final week of auditions, the producer asked him again if he was interested. “I finally thought to myself, ‘why not give it a shot?’ So, I rented a Blues Brothers costume, drew on some sideburns, sang ‘Rubber Biscuit’ and won the competition. That eventually led to me auditioning in Las Vegas for ‘Legends In Concert.'”
Becoming Elwood wasn’t a natural direction for the performer. Martin said, “I never really felt I looked like Dan (Aykroyd, who performed the original Elwood Blues). However, my partner Carmen has always had that ‘wow’ impression when people first see him. Being that I was a pretty good impressionist, I felt I could pull off the essence and then add high energy to the act.”
Growing up, Cullors knew about Jackson but he didn’t necessarily listen to or watch the King of Pop.
“It pains me to say that I did not become a huge Michael Jackson fan until after he died,” said Cullors. “I grew up listening to his songs, and was always somewhat aware of his celebrity, but after his death is when I really began got an in depth view on exactly what made this man so legendary. When you see Michael Jackson, you can’t help but be captivated.”
However, when he steps on stage as Jackson, Cullors said, “it has never really been a priority to be a copy cat. It’s always been imperative that I more embody everything that made him so great.”
“The most difficult aspect for me has always been keeping that same electricity on stage (as Jackson) for every performance,” said Cullors.
Audiences should come out to the Fox Theater to check out this holiday themed “Legends in Concert,” said Martin. “It’s the holiday season. It’s great time for friends and family to be together and go out and see a fun, wholesome, show that will conjure up memories of these amazing stars, hearken us back to those great holiday specials on stage and TV, and make new memories appreciating and applauding these gifted tribute artists.”
Cullors added, “What a better way to spend the upcoming holiday season than with your friends and family and all of your favorite legends and stars under one roof?”
“Legends in Concert,” which opens Nov. 23, runs through Dec. 31 at the Fox Theater at the Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket.
For tickets, go to Foxwoods.com