Rich Natole: Four Syllables and 300 Voices of Entertainment at Harmon Theater
You can’t accuse Rich Natole of being an introvert. The comedian impressionist literally creates his own crowd and is the most popular person in it. His show, “Voices of a Generation” debuted on 5/15 at the Harmon Theater, located at The Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort.
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan
The red velvet draped interior of the Harmon Theater with its small corner stage and intimate seating, is ideal for highlighting a performer’s personality and Natole’s multi-faceted repertoire (300 voices) flows as easily as a rapid slide show; only instead of the places he’s been it’s of the people he becomes.
Video screens introduce Natole with a photo biography and humorous celebrity interviews (Louie Anderson, Bobby Slayton, and Mayor Oscar Goodman) as well as Las Vegas tourists, all of whom confess they’ve never heard of the man. Having worked in comedy clubs, on cruises, at retirement communities and performing arts centers, Natole is a veteran at his craft despite the anonymity.
Although the show is aimed at the Baby Boomer generation, it carries enough of Natole’s smartass musings to keep Generations X & Y engaged. For example, Natole’s list of the world’s shortest books (as told by Peter Falk as Detective Columbo) includes George Foreman’s Book of Baby Names and Dr. Kevorkian’s Motivational Speeches. Meanwhile, Jimmy Stewart stutters through a celebrity fire alarm alert and Charles Nelson Reilly auditions for the lead role in Dirty Harry. The comic’s rapid-fire delivery makes for a laugh-out-loud-despite-yourself experience.
Using only a prop or two, Natole barrels through celebrity impressions that bring back the likes of Elvis, George Burns, Marlon Brando, and John Wayne. The living don’t escape scrutiny either. Willie Nelson, Robert Wagner, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Jerry Seinfeld are among those who Natole “becomes.”
Natole resurrects a Howard Cosell/Mohammed Ali interview, illustrates how Johnny Cash had a sound reminiscent of Mr. Ed and mimics Robin Williams hyper antics as if he channeled the actor directly.
TV talk show hosts past and present figure prominently in “Voices,” from Ed Sullivan to Johnny Carson to Jay Leno; Andy Rooney and Dr. Phil get their opinions heard. Singers Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Wayne Newton, and Willie Nelson share the spotlight as well, although Natole does not sing as much as imitate the persona of these performers with props and quips.
A hilarious recasting of The Wizard of Oz stars Regis Philbin as the Wizard, Robert DeNiro as the Scarecrow, Joe Pesci as the Tin Man, Dustin Hoffman(as Rain Man) as the Cowardly Lion and Mike Tyson as Dorothy.
Isn’t it Rich? you may ask (like a Stephen Sondheim lyric) and it is - but then it isn’t; give him a few seconds and he’ll morph yet again
Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Jack Benny, Jackie Mason, Jack Nicholson and Sylvester Stallone all make an appearance and an impression (pun intended).
Even iconic television characters find their way onto the stage. The Fonz, Fred Sanford, Vinnie Barbarino, Archie and Edith Bunker, Ted Baxter, and Sponge Bob Squarepants, all in recognizable shtick, keep the audience in a mixture of nostalgia and entertainment. If these references are familiar, you are most likely part of the generation for which the show is intended.
Natole also stages a five-question quiz show using one male and one female audience member who try to guess the clue/impression he provides. Contestants ring a bell and answer for points, the whole segment guided by the comic’s ad libs.
Not geared toward kids, the adult-only crowd or the tragically hip, Natole delivers a 70-minute deluge of personalities at 2:00 p.m., seven days a week, shaking hands with audience members at the end of each show.
To quote his Forrest Gump impression, Natole is “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
And that’s what keeps it interesting.
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