BRANSON, Mo. —
J.C. Brando knew she liked the music of Adele, but never thought impersonating the English pop songstress would turn into a career.
"She is such a fun character," said Brando. "She has such a huge personality, and her music is so soulful. She writes all of her own music, so I appreciate her talent and her realness."
Brando, a theatrically trained actress, didn't even know what the singer looked like. It was her students who gave her the idea of putting an Adele tribute act together.
"I was substitute teaching, and the students told me I looked like Adele," the California native said. "It's been great and easy for me. I feel like my theater background really prepared me for impersonating. I just think of it as another role. So, I put my act together and auditioned for Legends in Concert, and here I am, two years later."
Lori Mitchell-Gay has been a tribute artist for more than two decades.
"I started with Legends in 1992 doing Whitney (Houston) and Tina (Turner)," the tribute veteran said. "I was on the first cruise ship (Legends in Concert) ever went out on, and 20 years later I'm still here."
Mitchell-Gay said she loves her job and the music of Tina Turner, who she impersonates full-time now at the Legends Branson show.
"I'm constantly learning," she said. "I haven't gotten to the point, in my opinion, that I nailed it. Tina's still alive and still kicking, and I'm still learning."
Two shows a day, six days a week, Brando and Mitchell-Gay take the stage at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theatre and belt out vocals to eager crowds. The pair share the stage with fellow tribute artists appearing as Elvis, The Blues Brothers and Johnny Cash through May 20.
While Adele is relatively new to the pop-music scene, Tina Turner has a long list of hit records and is an iconic performer. Performing the music and dance from Turner's '90s era is special to Mitchell-Gay.
"My favorite era is the '90s because that's when she made her comeback," she said. "When I first started doing Tina, I was more in the '60s era. It wasn't with Ike (Turner), of course. I felt like I could mimic a lot of the youth that she carried in her movement. I did a lot of her earlier movements, even though I was performing a lot of the '90s music."
Today, Mitchell-Gay's Tina Turner is more "River Deep" than "Nutbush City Limits," she said. During her set, Mitchell-Gay tackles Turner classics such as "Higher," "What's Love Got to Do with It?," "River Deep" and "Proud Mary."
With so much material to choose from, Mitchell-Gay said she is able to change up the show often.
"I can change up the music according to the venue," she said. "I just changed my set from the ship because it was a Mediterranean run and she has different hits (there). I was able to use a lot of her music that wasn't necessarily popular here in the United States, since I had the opportunity to perform (to) a European crowd."
Adele's newness to the music scene dictates that Brando capitalizes on the singer's pop hits and appeal to a younger audience.
Legends audiences respond well to Brando's renditions of Adele's "Skyfall," "Rolling in the Deep" and "Rumor Has It."
"It's really great because I see a lot of kids who say, 'Adele is so great,' and they sing along," she said. "What's really shocked me is how many older people really love Adele. I get people in their 60s and 70s who come up to me and say, 'I listened to your CD all the way here,' and 'Adele is my favorite.'"
Both tribute artists said they plan on continuing their current careers, but both acknowledge the hard work never ends.
"The fact is that (Tina's) still around," Mitchell-Gay said. "She's a living legend, and that keeps me motivated. I feel like I'll never stop learning. There is always something for me to rethink."
Brando agreed with Mitchell-Gay.
"What Lori was talking about is the most important thing you learn from doing this," she said. "You never stop learning and never think that you have it perfect. That's the No. 1 thing. Putting just a hint of yourself in there so that you don't go crazy is important, too."
Want to go?
For show and ticket information, vist www.legendsinconcert.com/Branson/ or call 1-800-374-7469.