Show Palace Dinner Theatre has finalized plans for the third annual "Superstar Concert Series" to be presented at the Hudson theater in partnership with Ruth Eckerd Hall.
Under the handshake agreement set up in 2006, Eckerd uses its buying power and show biz contacts to book well-known performers at the midsized venue in Hudson.
This season's shows:
Jan. 19: Impressionist Fred Travalena in "Come Fly With Me, an Evening of Sinatra"
March 16: Political pundit/comedian David Brenner
March 30: Actor/comic/musician Joe Piscopo
Travalena, 66, has been doing his Sinatra tribute since 1974.
"I knew Frank, so it makes it even more authentic," he said in a recent telephone interview.
Sinatra liked Travalena's impression of himself — "He does me great," Sinatra once told a Las Vegas audience that included Travalena — so much so that he told the stagehands at Caesar's Palace to let the younger performer use the special solid gold microphone that Sinatra used in his own act.
"I literally used to follow his cab around New York City," Travalena said of his idol. "He used to be part of my act, but I said, 'Why not make it my whole act?' "
Travalena said he invented a sort of karaoke machine to listen to himself to see if he had captured the Sinatra sound after he listened to Sinatra records.
"It took a long time to get the voice," he said.
Then there's Brenner. The Emmy Award winner has written and directed more than 100 television documentaries and has made more than 150 guest appearances on The Tonight Show, where he made his TV debut. His political jokes made him a favorite on news-oriented shows and earned him a spot in Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.
Brenner's opening act will be comedian/actor Joe Bronzi.
Piscopo is making a return appearance to the Show Palace, having first been there in January 2007. He was a regular on Saturday Night Live from 1980 through 1984, played Vince in the 1994 Broadway revival of Grease, and has had supporting roles in several major films (Sidekicks, Johnny Dangerously, Bartleby) and on television.
Besides being a comic, he's an accomplished musician on several instruments and a singer.
Misunderstanding ironed out
The continuation of the Show Palace's joint venture with Eckerd was in doubt in 2007, a year after it was launched, when Eckerd booked one of the shows being presented at the Show Palace series at its own theater at a much lower price.
The original agreement implied that the Show Palace would get an exclusive with the performers, though that detail was not in writing.
That misunderstanding was resolved, and the new series is set up with the performers not booking shows at both places on the same swing, though some may come back later for an Eckerd show.
The celebrity shows have proven to be popular with Show Palace fans. Movie icon Debbie Reynolds packed the house for two performances, as did TV star Tony Danza and singer Tony Orlando. The novelty acts Sha Na Na and the Village People were huge hits, as was Piscopo at his original show in January 2007.
If you go
What: Superstar Concert Series
Where: Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson
When: Fred Travalena on Jan. 19; David Brenner on March 16; and Joe Piscopo on March 30
Tickets: Dinner and show, $59 for Travalena and Brenner; $49 for Piscopo, all plus tax and tip. Call (727) 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll free elsewhere 1-888-655-7469.