By Jacqueline Monahan
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The Westgate’s aptly named Shimmer Cabaret is the new home of Purple Reign, the Prince Tribute extraordinaire previously performing at The D Las Vegas.

They’ve appeared on Late Show with David Letterman. They’ve been crowned "Best Tribute Act" by the Las Vegas Review Journal Poll, (2009) winning 2 awards by both the staff and readers. The same poll awarded them "Best Impersonator" in 2014.

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Jason Tenner and Jennifer Romas
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Jason Tenner channels Prince’s sexy androgyny, recreating an era of fashion, funk, and flair.  Tenner’s stage presence is like a hyper-charged vision of the superstar, taller and a bit more feline than the original.  Full of Funk-Rock and Synthpop, camp, and erotic word and body play, this Prince is apt to go blue throughout the show, in word and deed, spinning audio and visual velvet, satin, and lace along the way.

From the recognizably rapid opening beat of “Let’s Go Crazy” to the yearning lyrics of the brooding ballad “Purple Rain”, the band and Tenner, its tribute master, sing, dance, move, play and banter with Prince’s style, having a nearly hallucinatory effect on the assembled crowd.

With the icon’s signature side-steppin’ and synchronized moves (the musicians get in on the action as well) Tenner, in high heels that are stack (thicker) rather than spike, and a topless turban that leaves an elaborately curled fringe of dark hair exposed, is not afraid of “shakin’ that ass,” as one of the shows songs demands.  He often has company.

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Jason Tenner and Jennifer Romas
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Wearing a body-hugging black suit and silky tri-ruffled shirt, Tenner possesses the demeanor and regal bearing of the man who once changed his name to a modified ankh symbol.  Attitude is everything.

The group includes band members D’Andre Farley on lead guitar, Jaxon Duane on bass guitar, “Dr.” Damon Bartlett on keyboards, and L.C. Crawford on drums.  
Jennifer Romas is an Apollonia-like dancer who appears during many of the songs, and Drew F. James and Kendrick Harmon are featured in the middle of the show as Morris Day and a mirror-toting Jerome respectively.

Led by Tenner’s versatile voice, Prince’s hits summon the sound and feel of the crushed velvet artist, incorporating feedback, heavy guitar riffs, and fancy fingering on the struts.  The musicians can even sing and play while taking part in the choreography, adding to Tenner’s bouncy splits –to- rise and microphone manipulations (he makes it spin, sway, and do its own dance).

He makes the audience move, too.  When the band’s beat segways into that of “Kiss”, Tenner commands a one-armed wave and everyone complies, moving a raised, right arm above their head from shoulder to shoulder.

Changing into a long, purple duster for “Raspberry Beret”, Tenner is joined onstage by Romas, who brings to life the song’s line, “If it was warm, she wouldn’t wear much more.”  Tenner accentuates the titillation even further by exposing one of his nipples underneath his white silk shirt.  The audience screams its approval.

The suggestive lyrics of “Little Red Corvette” (“Baby, you’re much too fast”) turns into the party anthem “1999” as the audience gets on their feet again.  Although Tenner told them to, it’s more like bestowing a benediction.  The familiar tune makes them want to keep the beat with their bodies, despite age or aesthetic ability.

Morris Day and Jerome’s appearance signal that it’s time for the Time.  Drew F. James and Kendrick Harmon bring a sassy attitude and a preening self-exaltation onto the stage, maintaining a friendly rivalry with their headliner.  As Tenner exits, he bids a jovial “f*ck y’all” to the two men.

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Drew F. James and Kendrick Harmon
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Harmon holds up a large wall mirror for the primping James, who can never get enough of smoothing his hair and beholding his own image.  The personable, comically pompous pair breaks into “C-O-O-L” and “Jungle Love”, deftly delivering dance moves and partnering with the microphone as if it knew the steps.

Tenner reappears sporting a costume change, consisting of a spandex black lace ensemble that leaves little to the imagination (and even less to his circulation).  Launching into “Erotic City” he parries with dancer Romas, herself in a tiny black leather ensemble, before nearly marching to the pounding beat of “Controversy” and the much lesser known “Peach” (kind of mellow, that one).  Even mellower is a laid back version of “I Would Die For You” which is a rare reimagining; usually the songs follow Prince’s high energy arrangements.

“Head” comes next.  Yes, that kind.  Lyrics start, “I remember when I met you, baby.  You were on you're way to be wed.”  Romas appears, in a tiny (aren’t they all ?) bridal outfit, complete with veil.  Together, she and Tenner pantomime the song’s title in a series of suggestive moves bordering on rapturous raunch.  That is one talented microphone.

What can possibly top that?  Why, “Sexy M.F.” of course.  Tenner commands the audience to sing the refrain again and again (“You sexy muthaf*cka”) along with “shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass!” in an extended call and answer segment. Romas is happy to prove that she can.

“Alphabet St.” gives Romas some lines to sing along with Tenner, most notably “Run and tell your mama ‘bout that!”  You’ll hear what happens “When Doves Cry” immediately following, for which Moras dons ballerina toe shoes and Tenner appears in a black fur coat, rocketing around the stage in staccato steps.

One last segment featuring Morris Day and Jerome, back in shark skin suit and satin smoking jacket singing the fast-paced “Jerk Out” and following up with “The Bird” makes the audience go vertical once more.  The directions are in the lyrics. “Just two arms and an attitude.”  Even the gravity-challenged are encouraged.  
“Sister, you ain’t too fat to fly.”

Tenner closes the show with a plaintive “Purple Rain,” and surprise! The audience gets to sing (almost moan) the title refrain several times.  He meets with audience members for pictures immediately afterward.

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Jason Tenner and Jennifer Romas
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Jennifer Romas and Jason Tenner
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

The look, the sound, the attitude and the racy rapport with audience members all combine to make Purple Reign, The Prince Tribute Show an audio/visual time machine of the Minneapolis Sound. With a charismatic front man, an extremely adept band (D’Andre Farley is a show in himself) and a Morris Day tribute sprinkled throughout, it’s a slick, sexy slice of sensation.