By Megan Wadding, Feb. 26, 2015.
Frank Marino, also known as the “Queen of the Strip,” is bringing his Las Vegas show, Divas Starring Frank Marino, to town as the first stop on a 10-city tour.
The show, which regularly features some of the world’s best female impersonators, will bring the likenesses of Britney Spears, Cher, Diana Ross, Beyoncé, Madonna and Dolly Parton to the stage at Talking Stick Resort this weekend. (Read more about two Arizonans who will return to the Valley as Divas here.)
Originally on track for a career in the medical field, Marino admits he always had an interest in show business.
“I was going to be a doctor, but working in a large pharmacy while I was going to college afforded me the ability to be able to walk up to the makeup counter more times than I should have,” Marino said during a phone call from Las Vegas. “One Halloween, I went out in drag and met an agent and I became an instant female impersonator.”
Having done more than 25,000 shows before 10 million people – and approximately 400,000 costume changers – Marino is quite the veteran Las Vegas performer.
“I just got in the Guinness Book of World Records for Las Vegas’ Longest Running Headliner,” he said. “October was [Diva’s] five-year anniversary and this coming September is my 30th year performing in Las Vegas.”
Sin City Style
Marino has built a Las Vegas empire over the years, creating Divas staring Frank Marino after hosting An Evening at La Cage at Riviera Hotel and Casino for 25 years. Divas staring Frank Marino, a high-energy show that features a cast of female impersonators and male dancers, has taken up residency at The LINQ Hotel and Casino.
“It starts with a big Vegas opening,” Marino explained. “I come out as the late Joan Rivers. I warm the audience, get them all ready, and then I bring out all the famous ladies that we’ve seen in concerts on stages around the world.”
The 75-minute production usually includes about 15 different characters portrayed by different performers, broken up by Marino coming out onto the stage dressed in Bob Mackie gowns and delivering sassy sketches as the comedic legend Joan Rivers.
“[We have] everyone from Britney Spears and Katy Perry, to the staples, Cher, Madonna and Diana Ross. There is something for everybody, young and old,” said Marino. “I also have six of the hottest male dancers that I’m bringing with me. I’m the star of the show.”
Marino believes the key to the show’s success and longevity is its ability to “move and evolve” and keep their repertoire fresh and current.
My monologue has changed with current events and styles have changes so the fashion we wear is always different,” Marino said. “People could come to our show three or four times a year and never see the same show. I believe that’s the key to our longevity.”
Another factor in the show’s success, Marino said, is that the performers are encouraged to suggest costumes and songs for their own performances.
“I collaborate with the cast. I think that’s why the show is so successful,” he said. “I’m one of the few producers on the Last Vegas Strip that allows the cast to have input.”
Getting The Show On The Road
Since Divas officially opened in October 2009, the show has only left the Strip to do a show in rare instances. In fact, the last time this cast of characters made the trip from Sin City to the Valley of the Sun was four years ago.
“We very, very rarely travel because it’s such a big show to travel with and it’s very expensive to move it,” Marino said. “Taking 10 drag queens on the road [is] a lot. There are so many costumes and the choreography has to be changed for a different stage. Can you imagine walking through an airport with 10 female impersonators? Can you imagine what the luggage looks like? They have like 20 suitcases a piece.”
For the tour, which will hit 10 cities throughout the next two years, Marino said he chose his favorite spots to visit, adding that Arizona was at the top of his list.
“Arizona is the first of our entire tour and it was that way on purpose. I wanted to come back. I’m also very excited to work at Talking Stick because I’ve heard it’s just gorgeous,” he said, adding that when the show was in Arizona four years ago, they had a fantastic time.
“It was such a great turnout and such a great audience response that it was my number one on my list to go back to,” he said. “The audience was wild. It was crazy. Not only was it packed, but they were screaming like it was a rock concert.”
Marino insists that his show at the Talking Stick will be a party atmosphere and a very exciting performance for all in attendance.
“This will be the best party to be at in Arizona,” he said. “We are putting our hearts and souls into this.”
Divas Starring Frank Marino
8 p.m. Feb. 27
5 and 8 p.m. Feb. 28
Talking Stick Resort
9800 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale
Frank Marino is famous for his spot-on impersonation of Joan Rivers, which he brings to the stage as part of his Las Vegas show, Divas Starring Frank Marino.
Marino opens each show as the late Joan Rivers, which he considers “a tribute now rather than an impersonation,” and does comedic sketches as Rivers between the show’s sets.
“I always [portrayed] her with respect and class and I always wanted to honor her even when she was alive,” Marino said. “Now that she’s gone, a lot of fans that [once] thought she was a little over the top … are even more accepting of it and understand that it was her job to make fun of all the things we all thought but never had the nerve to say.”
Marino fondly remembers meeting with Rivers back when he was just getting started in the business – an interaction he considers the catalyst for getting his career rolling.
“When I was starting impersonations, Joan Rivers was performing in Atlantic City, New Jersey,” he said. “She was very kind. I knocked on her door and she let me backstage. There I met producers from a show that was going to Las Vegas. It was being in the right place at the right time. I met these people, auditioned for a show and I got the job. I came to Las Vegas for a three-month contact and ended up staying.”
Marino said throughout the years, he and Rivers became good friends. He made an appearance on E!’s “Fashion Police” before her death and was personally invited to the comedy legend’s funeral by her daughter, Melissa.
“She became like a family member and mentor,” Marino said. “When she passed, it was like losing a second mother.”
Marino insists that his impersonation of Rivers has stayed the same since her passing and has no plans to change it up any time soon because, as the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.