For his first appearance in Atlantic City in six years, musical comedian Stephen Sorrentino is trying to quickly re-establish himself with local audiences.
Sorrentino's vehicle is "Voices In My Head," a nonstop showcase for more than 100 of his celebrity impressions - Lady Gaga, Pee Wee Herman, Jim Morrison and Willie Nelson - mixed in with comedy routines and musical numbers. Joining Sorrentino on stage at the Showroom at the Tropicana Casino & Resort are eight dancers, a four-piece band and local actress Sara Moore, who plays various roles.
"It's an A.D.D. dream - every three minutes, the show changes channels," Sorrentino says of the production, which runs through June 22.
"It's really an old-school headliner show that brings audiences on a musical and comedic journey."
The musical numbers span various eras and genres, from a Motown medley of The Four Tops and The Temptations, through Jethro Tull's rock anthems, through Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."
"I write my own material, so everything is fresh," Sorrentino says. "I don't want to do anything that's preconceived.
"I consider myself a singing comedian - I don't like it when they call me an impressionist. You won't catch me doing the same crap - Sammy Davis singing 'Candy Man.'"
When Sorrentino develops a new character, he looks to master impressionist Frank Gorshin, who approached the craft like an actor.
"I use my face and body - you become that character," Sorrentino says.
Or sometimes he might be playing two characters at once, such as his signature Sonny and Cher duet.
Or he might do a mash-up - at the Trop, he is performing the greatest hits of Led Zeppelin sung by "the wrong people," including Nelson, Tom Jones, Jerry Lewis and Wayne Newton.
"It is so wrong, it's great," Sorrentino says.
But Sorrentino's best known impression - Elton John - didn't make the final cut.
"I've left that out of the show," he says. "I don't want anyone to come with a preconceived notion of what they're going to see."
The veteran of Chicago's Second City improv troupe prides himself on constantly tweaking his shows to keep them fresh. Having enjoyed long runs in Las Vegas at the Riviera and Paris, as well as a previous stint in Atlantic City at the Trop, Sorrentino believes in tearing up the script when he gets the chance.
"Improv training tells you not to think," he says. "As soon as you start thinking, it's not fresh. There's nothing like trusting that something will change, then it becomes magic."
"I don't believe in scripts," Sorrentino adds. "I will do the musical bits, but what happens before and after I don't know. I'm not old, but I'm an old-school performer. I still hang out with guys like Marty Allen and Debbie Reynolds and Jerry Lewis. My sensibility is from a different era, but I'm of this era."
The Long Island, N.Y., native also is giving props to Atlantic City's long tradition as an entertainment capital.
"I am paying tribute to Atlantic City, which doesn't get its due as a piece of theater and vaudeville history," he says. "It's almost like Broadway for us, and we're in the best theater in town. It feels so great to be home."
With such a lengthy sit-down, Sorrentino hopes word of mouth will keep the Trop's Showroom filled and audiences coming back for repeat viewings.
"I love the fact that we're entrenching for a while," he says. "After the show, people will say, you should do this and that. I write down all that stuff.
"I'm hoping we'll start a buzz, and people will want to come see the show again and again."
Works in progress
The current commander in chief is one voice musical comedian Stephen Sorrentino just can't pull off.
"George Bush Sr. had 1,000 points of light - I don't think Barack Obama has that cadence," Sorrentino says. "I do a joke with (Obama). I have fun with politics - it's nothing disrespectful. But I don't do the impression because I don't think it's good enough."
Many younger stars are also tough gets - Lady Gaga works because of the combination of her over-the-top look and the familiar strains of "Bad Romance."
However, Justin Timberlake, despite his catchy hooks, doesn't have enough schtick for Sorrentino to make an impression stick.
"Justin Timberlake is a great singer and performer, but he's not like Rod Stewart is completely different from Elton John. Younger performers don't have as much time to cook, so I don't get to nail them as much as I want."