Thursday, August 24, 2017

The One and Many Voices of Jimmy James, in PTown Until September 3rd

The ever-glamorous Jimmy James returns to Provincetown
after an eight year absence. See him before Labor Day!
It’s been eight long years since Provincetown has been wowed by the one and many voices of Jimmy James, whose incomparable, dead on voice characterizations, ranging from current pop stars to divas from decades gone by, make him the consummate vocal impressionist of our time. He is peerless.
Performing live vocals for his legions of fans for more than 30 years, Jimmy keeps his show fresh and vibrant by continuously mastering the voices of new artists, each time creating a younger, modern show, without neglecting the fan favorites that have kept so many in his audience returning again and again. It’s as exciting to see which current pop goddess he’ll bring to the stage as it is to swoon once again to the definitive voices of the all-time greats, both male and female.
I happen to be one of those long-time fans, and was in the crowd at Sage the other night, eager to hear some of the best-loved stars of my own youth, and those I had gotten to know through Jimmy’s shows, TV appearances and CDs over the years. There were audible gasps heard in the audience as the unmistakable voice of Billie Holiday came out of Jimmy’s throat, and during the evening, little squeals of delight escaped throughout the crowd when listeners heard long gone, favorite stars as diverse as Elvis Presley and Judy Garland brought to life once again. These vocals were blended seamlessly with present-day artists like Lana Del Rey singing her hit Summertime Sadness. Boy George popped up as well, along with a great story about him that Jimmy delighted in telling to that night's packed house.

Jimmy becomes Cher on stage, in style, at Sage.
A big part of the huge success of Jimmy James is the fact that he totally inhabits his characters, having mastered facial expressions, mannerisms and other attributes unique to each one.
Simple costume elements and props, along with a few more elaborate ones, complete the illusion. Channeling Cher, for example, requires a tall, shimmering, beaded headdress à la designer Bob Mackie, who happened to be sitting next to me at Jimmy’s show that night! He was there with legendary singer Marilyn Maye, who had just come from her own performance at the Art House. Filmmaker John Waters was in the audience that night as well. No one wanted to miss the chance to see Jimmy James in an all too rare appearance in PTown.
Conversely, no costuming was needed when, by simply picking up a cocktail from a front row table, Jimmy skillfully slipped right into the very persona of Judy Garland, carrying on a conversation with the audience, which was equally as satisfying as his superb rendition of her singing voice. Get Jimmy's current CD after the show to hear him, as Judy, singing her quintessential hit Over The Rainbow, along with Cher, and many other stars, songs and styles of music you'll find on the disc. Jimmy will autograph it for you, too, if you’d like.

The right facial expression, along with a bulky pair of eyeglasses and a lit cigarette, brought famed screen actress Bette Davis to the stage, with hilarious results. Jimmy James is not a comic, per se, but he is incredibly funny as he joyfully portrays a number of characters from his wide repertoire, giving us show biz stories and tidbits told in the voices of various. All of that is blended together with jazz, blues, rock and pop from the world’s greatest singers and musicians. In fact, Jimmy had opened the show with the stunning voice of Dame Shirley Bassey, singing her 1997 hit History Repeating, using her original musical track, which had been given to him as a gift. 
Jimmy James as Bette Davis, who did make a record album, as a singer!
When Bassey’s manager, Alex Gifford, saw Jimmy James perform in New York, and met him after the show, he asked if Jimmy had ever considered doing Shirley Bassey’s voice. He later gave Jimmy that original musical track, and after the lengthy process of perfecting her voice and creating a brand new personality for the stage, Jimmy debuted his new show History Repeating, inspired by that worldwide hit. The song had been written for Bassey by the Propellerheads. It had made the Top 10 on Italian music charts, became number 10 on the US Dance Music Chart, and reached number 1 in the UK. And now Jimmy James sings, in Dame Shirley's voice, to that original music track.

It's fitting that Jimmy James makes his return to Provincetown by performing at the Sage Inn, up the walkway at 336 Commercial Street. This spot was the location of the famous Madeira Room at the Pilgrim House, the first hotel in Provincetown. It was a place where many well-known stars had polished their early careers. Lily Tomlin had performed there in 1967, on the same stage where Jimmy had made his Provincetown debut more than 30 years ago.
We thank the new owners of Sage for once again offering this historic spot as a performance space for fabulous entertainment. Tucked away off Commercial Street, up the footpath east of the Purple Feather as we find it today, the original Pilgrim House nurtured many entertainers at the beginnings of their careers, and hosted well-known entertainers of all stripes. Novices as well as big names played the Madeira Room before the original Pilgrim House burned down in 1990.
By the way, we look forward to the formal change back to the name Pilgrim House, in the works already, and to performances by the many great entertainers we can expect to see on this stage once again, in the near future. New owners of the property want to restore the inn to the illustrious performance venue we've missed so much in the last few years under previous management.

The androgynous look of Jimmy James helps him
easily slip between his male and female characters.
Before Jimmy's first Provincetown performances 31 years ago, he had spent two years lip-syncing in Atlantic City, performing with a small company of female impersonators called La Cage. He was not allowed to use his own superb singing voice. That would have proven quite awkward, since each of the other cast members performed by silently moving their lips in synchronization with the recorded music and vocal tracks of big stars. Jimmy couldn't show them up.
His emancipation from lip-syncing came in the summer of 1986, when he arrived n Provincetown to perform at the Pilgrim House, alongside the likes of Wayland Flowers and Madam, and many other performers who were, or would become, genuine stars.
Before long, performing in his own show, Jimmy's own stardom began to blossom. His career really took off when his appearances as Marilyn Monroe brought him national attention on popular television programs like Giraldo, and Donahue, and the Joan Rivers Show, and a host of others. Soon his impression of Marilyn was widely hailed as the best in the world, a reputation that persists, despite Jimmy's retirement of Marilyn from his show in 1997. In fact, in 2014, an African postage stamp honoring Marilyn Monroe was famously minted, having accidentally used an image of Jimmy James as Marilyn by mistake.
Through the years, Jimmy has become known around the world for his uncanny ability to transform his voice, but his global hit Fashionista, which made the Billboard Top 10, has made him famous for his own voice, and for his talent as a songwriter. YouTube users have created all sorts of videos related to the fashion industry, and a few other topics, set to the energetic beat of the song that pokes a little fun while paying homage to the fashion industry. Over 20 million people have viewed these videos. One of my favorites is a compilation showing models stumbling on the runway in a series of catwalk disasters. Visit to find more of the Fashionista videos, TV appearances, the Marilyn years, CDs, and original songs by Jimmy James.

Jimmy's last PTown performance of the season will be on Sunday, September 3rd, at 9 PM, so you’ll have to get to the Sage Inn before Labor Day to see his remarkable, thoroughly entertaining show. You won’t want to miss it.

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