You could say that Frank Marino knows how to make an entrance.
Backstage the 36-year-old entertainer stands beneath a red sign, flanked by a hairdresser and make-up artist, whose darting hands make their final adjustments.
After "La Cage's" opening dance number the announcement begins, "Please welcome the star of our show as Joan Rivers, Frank Marino." Accompanied by the strains of "Anchors Away," he glides on stage wearing a black Bob Mackie gown and a white cape draped over his shoulders, looking like a porcelain version of Joan Rivers.
As the star and host of "An Evening at La Cage," Marino proceeds to work the audience in much the manner of his famous alter-ego, Joan Rivers.
In a campy voice he delivers a smooth yet electric monologue that would make any late-night talk-show host proud.
Adding to his eclectic performance are the 15 or so costume changes that Marino makes during the course of the show. He has about 150 elegant outfits from which to choose, all costing from $1,000 to $5,000. Backstage, his wardrobe coordina- tor Mitch Gladd assists in the lightning-quick changes that take place between segments of the show.
But Marino's quest to be the ultimate Rivers impersonator extends beyond gowns and dresses. He starts the show with Rivers' new straight hair style, then progresses into the more flam- boyant Joan. Moreover he has had 10 cosmetic operations, from a nose job to cheek and chin implants, to achieve the perfect look.
All the effort has paid off. Earlier this year Marino was voted Las Vegas' best female impersonator in Entertainment Today magazine's " Year 2000" Tourist Top Choice Las Vegas Entertainment Awards.
"I accept the award with honor," Marino says. "It's nice to be recognized after putting in so much hard work."
Over the years Marino has developed as a performer and now reigns as the premiere female impersonator. It's not surprising then, that his career has catapulted into TV commercials, special appearances and dozens of guest spots on talk shows. But performing on stage will always be the source of his seemingly boundless energy.
In addition to Marino's starring role as Joan Rivers, Norbert Aleman's "La Cage" features award-winning impersonations of celebrity greats such as Madonna, Dolly Parton, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Whoopi and many more.
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