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Tribute artists turn back the clock in Summit Hill

  • KATIE WARGO/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Award winning tribute artist Johnny M entertains crowds during his "Elvis and Friends" benefit concert at the Summit Hill Community Center last Saturday. He was joined by tribute artists Donna Maxon as Bette…
    KATIE WARGO/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Award winning tribute artist Johnny M entertains crowds during his "Elvis and Friends" benefit concert at the Summit Hill Community Center last Saturday. He was joined by tribute artists Donna Maxon as Bette Midler and Daniel Rebecca as Roy Orbison and Louie Armstrong in the two hour event.
Published August 02. 2011 05:01PM

Nearly a hundred people traveled back in time through music at the Summit Hill Community Center for a few hours last Saturday night in the company of a trio of tribute artists who brought to life Roy Orbison, Satchmo and Elvis Presley and an artist portraying Bette Midler in a concert to benefit the Summit Hill Heritage Center.

As the tune "Welcome To My World" filled the auditorium, the door opened to The King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley as portrayed by award winning tribute artist Johnny M who sang the Presley standard before acting as a host for the two hour show featuring Elvis and Friends.

"I'm glad to be back in Summit Hill, and this time I brought some friends with me to entertain you," the King said to the audience as he introduced tribute artist Daniel Rebecca who portrayed rock icon Roy Orbison. Rebecca did a great job performing several Orbison favorites including "You Got It", "Crying", "Only the Lonely", "Falling", finishing his set with a great rendition of "Oh, Pretty Woman".

After a warm round of applause, Elvis returned to introduce the next act, none other the Divine Miss M, Bette Midler as portrayed by fiery tribute artist Donna Maxon whose impersonation of the Diva was spot on both in appearance and sound. She was accompanied with her personal assistant introduced as Miss Suzy

Maxon opened her set with "You've Got to Have Friends" after which she bantered about Midler's career trading jokes in the bawdy vaudeville style with Miss Suzy in the manner for which Midler is best known. Maxon offered songs from Midler's movies and different stages of her career most of which were pop hits throughout the history of rock and roll and oldies including the Helen Reddy hit, "Delta Dawn" and the Dixie Cups' "Going to the Chapel". Miss Suzy selected some audience members from the audience to portray the Harlettes to perform as backup singers for "Going to the Chapel". Backing up the Divine Miss M were Melody Murlo of Lansford, Janie Bamford of Lake Hauto, Lizzie Kubian of Green Bay, Wisconsin and Donna Vogt of Washington DC. The quartet reprised their roles later in the show in a version of "Proud Mary".

After a short intermission, Elvis returned to the stage to introduce the next act, the one and only Louie "Satchmo" Armstrong portrayed by Daniel Rebecca in his second set. Rebecca nailed Satchmo in what audience members later said reminded them exactly of the jazz icon. His trumpet playing and vocal style mirrored Armstrong in his stirring renditions of "Hello Dolly", "Blueberry Hill" and "When the Saints Go Marching In". He was then joined by Maxon to perform a trio of duets including "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off", "The Glory of Love" and "Proud Mary" in which they were joined by Miss Suzy and the Harlettes. After Maxon left the stage, Rebecca closed his set with the Armstrong favorite "What A Wonderful World".

The last set featured Johnny M as the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley who took the stage to perform a 40 minute set of Elvis favorites for the audience who were really enthusiastic. He featured standards such as "Fever", "Don't Be Cruel", "My Way" and "Devil in Disguise". Before his finale "An American Trilogy", Johnny M dedicated it to our soldiers here and especially abroad and asked the crowd to pray for them all to come safely home.

The song "American Trilogy" first featured in Presley's concerts in 1972 was written by Mickey Newbury and cleverly merged the three major forces in the United States at the time of the Civil War, the Southern anthem "Dixie", the African-American spiritual "All My Trials" and the Union marching standard "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" to create a moving, powerful medley.

The Summit Hill Heritage Center's next event will be held on Saturday August 6th at 2 p.m. and is a magic show by Tom Yurasits which will be free to the community who is asked to bring a canned good or a book for the Panther Valley Library. On Sunday, August 7th the Hazleton Philharmonic will be back by popular demand at the Heritage Center at 3 p.m. for a concert. For more information, call (570) 645-9133.

The Summit Hill Heritage Center is a 501c3 nonprofit service organization whose mission is to enrich the lives and communities of the Panther Valley and surrounding areas through entertainment, educational and social events, with its funds going to maintain and administer the building to support organizations like the food pantry, Boy Scouts and Quilting Guild. All donations and memberships are tax deductible contributions.

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