Peterson’s ‘Eyecons’ benefits Dover’s Schwartz Center

When the Schwartz Theater for the Arts booked Christopher Peterson for its annual benefit show, it really got a bang for its buck.

Christopher Peterson brings his show “Eyecons” to the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover Aug. 29 as he impersonates a stable of show business legends, including, below, Joan Rivers, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. (Submitted photos)

Christopher Peterson brings his show “Eyecons” to the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover Aug. 29 as he impersonates a stable of show business legends, including, below, Joan Rivers, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. (Submitted photos)

Mr. Peterson, considered North America’s foremost female impersonator, will bring a cavalcade of stars to Dover Aug. 29 to raise money for the venerable theater, including the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball and Joan Rivers.

His “Eyecons” show, which he has been performing for the better part of two decades, has Mr. Peterson transforming himself into a variety of show business legends in an all-live, no lip-sync production.

It was a career Mr. Peterson says he was destined to pursue.

“Without getting into quoting song lyrics, I was kind of born this way,” said the 53-year-old Canada native in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from Edmonton, Alberta, where he is performing in a show called “Typhoon Judy,” about the life and times of Judy Garland.

“I think I was born to do drag. As a child, I was always painting, sculpting and taking home economics classes. At 14, I learned how to sew and began working in the theater doing makeup and those sorts of things.”

To this day, Mr. Peterson does his own makeup and makes his own costumes for the show where he goes from one character to another right on stage.

“Eyecons” started after he was fired from a three-year stint lip-syncing as various performers in the “An Evening at La Cage” drag show in Toronto.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copy“I picked up a microphone at a karaoke show in 1994 and started doing impressions of Marilyn Monroe and Julie Andrews, doing them live this time instead of lip-syncing, and I started to get popular on Tuesday nights there. Then I started to develop an act and we started this up in 1996,” Mr. Peterson said.

Knowing he had a predilection for drag performing but no real outlet for it, as a kid, he was buoyed by seeing TV appearances by the late female impersonator Jim Bailey.

“He used to come on ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ in the ’70s and do these wonderful impersonations of people like Judy Garland, Peggy Lee and Phyllis Diller. As a 12- to 14-year-old, I thought ‘if he can make a career of out this, that’s what I want to do for a living.’ ”

He also counts among his influences Canadian female impersonator Craig Russell and Bugs Bunny, whom he jokingly calls “the best drag queen in the world.”

For three years, beginning in 1993, he appeared at The Edmonton Fringe Festival in “Guys in Disguise.” He played 21dsn Joanthe female lead in Canadian Stage’s production of Tom Stoppard’s “Rough Crossing” and workshopped the role of Robin Turner in Brad Fraser’s stage musical adaptation of the movie “Outrageous.”

He won the Dora Award (Canada’s equivalent of the Tony) for his female performance in Brad Fraser’s “Poor Super Man.”

He’s also been on the big screen, most notably in the role of a Lucille Ball impersonator in the 2001 comedy “Rat Race.”

When he’s not performing across the U.S. and Canada, his home base is Key West, Florida, where he has a regular gig at the La Te Da cabaret performing “Eyecons.”

Delaware audiences are already familiar with Mr. Peterson from his frequent summers in Rehoboth Beach, performing at the former Renegade, Sands Hotel and at Clear Space Theatre Co., where he was in a production of “La Cage Aux Folles.”

He started coming to Rehoboth in 1998 and says he’s only missed three or four seasons, including this one.

“Of course the first time when I was asked to go down there, I said ‘Where’s Rehoboth Beach?’ They said ‘Delaware.’ I said ‘Where’s Delaware?’’’ he remarked with a laugh.

“But I love Delaware. It’s a beautiful place. It’s really been one of the highlights of my career to be able to play down there. It’s been amazing.”

Mr. Peterson said the Dover audience will see six or seven stars out of his stable of about 15.

One legend we probably won’t see in the 90-minute show is Cher.

“She’s my Achilles’ heel,” Mr. Peterson admits.

“I’ve tried her and she never works. She has kind of a horsey face that I don’t have. The only way I can do her is to exaggerate her and spoof her. Everybody wants to see her but she’s one I just can’t do. I think I’ll leave her at home,” he said.

21dsn JudyMr. Peterson said a bit of what he does is optical trickery. Although he may not get the look or voice down perfectly, putting the package together can “fool the eye.”

“When I first develop a character, I’ll use that first photograph of her that hits the Internet and try to recapture that look,” he said.

“That’s what is most ingrained in people’s brains and that’s the look I go for. Then vocally, I choose a song that best suits my voice and is one of their most popular and the eye fills in the rest.”

He considers himself one of the last of a dying breed. Typically these days, drag queens, such as Ru Paul, try to create their own persona rather than pay tribute to a bygone era.

“The new generation, they just seem to want to get up on stage and create their own thing rather than remembering who came before them,” he said.

21dsn Marilyn“You can put a pair of fake eyelashes on anyone and they would look good. In what I do, I think it’s important to bridge the generations.”

Tickets for the 8 p.m. Schwartz benefit show, presented by We Love the Arts, a group of friends working to help the arts flourish in Central Delaware, are $100 for orchestra seating and $50 for mezzanine and balcony.

Sponsorship opportunities are available and include premium seating, tickets to future events, an invitation to the encore reception following the show and an opportunity to meet Mr. Peterson.

For tickets and sponsorship information, visit www.schwartzcenter.com, call 302-678-5152 or email TheArts@schwartzcenter.com.

The Schwartz Center is at 226 S. State St., Dover.

Children’s Theatre season
Staying on the stage, The Children’s Theatre Inc., recently announced its 2015-2016 season slate with four family-friendly selections all at the Schwartz Center:

“Shrek: the Musical” will take place on Nov. 20, with a school show at 9:30 a.m. and a public performance that evening at 7. There also will be a public performance matinee on Nov. 21, at 2 p.m.

Auditions for the show will be held on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 at Reith Hall, 304 S. Governors Ave., Dover. Children ages 8-18 (and still in high school) are welcome to audition. They will be asked to sing, follow a brief dance routine, and do a cold reading. Callbacks will take place Sept. 10.

Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” will have public performances on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. and a Jan. 24 matinee at 3 p.m.

The classic tale of “Alice in Wonderland” will be the third offering with a public performance on March 19, at 7 p.m. and a March 20 matinee at 3 p.m.

The final show of the season will be “Rumpelstiltskin Is My Name” with public performances on May 20, at 7 p.m. and a May 21 matinee at 3.

All seats are $10 this season with the exception of the school show, which is $5.

Tickets may be purchased through the Schwartz Center for the Arts at (302) 678-5152.

Donovan at Bay Trading Co.

On Saturday, Delaware Bay Trading Co. will host Paul Donovan in the final show of the summer season.

Mr. Donovan is a singer/songwriter who recently left the area but returns on occasion to play. He has just released a new EP “Glow” billed as having “stories of a life well-lived, full of encouragement and hope.”

He previously has performed at Bay Trading as sideman for Sol Knopf but this is his first headlining the show.
Also appearing will be special guest Emily Moses.

Concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $5 and reservations are strongly recommended by calling (302) 698-3550.

Delaware Bay Trading Co., is at 102 Main St. in Camden.

Bands at Wine and Beer Fest

Looking ahead to this year’s Delaware Wine and Beer Festival on Oct. 17, two live bands will take the stage — 33 1/3, based in Lewes, and Perception of Felton.

Playing from noon to 2:30 p.m., Perception started with singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Nickolson in 2008. His influences include Nirvana, The Doors, Alice in Chains, Bush and Sublime. He always has written songs and been in a few bands but none with the lifespan of Perception.

Playing after Perception, 33 1/3 has performed throughout the Delmarva Peninsula including recent venues such as the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center and the Boardwalk Bandstand, the Delmarva Chicken Festival, Georgetown Return Day, the Sunset Grill-Ocean City, Maryland, and summer concerts in Georgetown, Milford, Milton and Ocean View and the Rehoboth Beach Country Club. The band has monthly performances at Irish Eyes in Lewes and the band’s acoustic trio performs monthly at Baywood Greens in Long Neck.

The band formed after Linda Beebe and Ben King performed at a wedding back in 2001. Terry Stuchlik joined shortly thereafter, playing at private parties and open mic nights.

From the beginning, the band worked on songs that had three-part harmonies including those from The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and The Eagles.

Tickets and additional information on the festival set for the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village in Dover be found at www.DelawareWineandBeerFestival.com.

Now showing
New this weekend in theaters is the action-comedy “American Ultra,” the thriller “Hitman: Agent 47” and the horror sequel “Sinister 2.”

New on DVD and download this week is Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone in “Aloha” and the Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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