Veteran entertainer Robert Larrabee does Elvis and so much more when he brings his Vegas to You show to the Schubert Centre Friday

Veteran entertainer Robert Larrabee does Elvis and so much more when he brings his Vegas to You show to the Schubert Centre Friday

Viva Las Vegas!

There’s no need to gamble when Larrabee Live brings a bit of Vegas to Vernon

Robert Larrabee is a snowbird who has an Elvis jumpsuit tucked away in his Las Vegas closet.

Like many Canadians who flock south of the border when it gets a tad too chilly, the Vancouver-born singer-songwriter who lives in Medicine Hat half the year, decided to see what the Nevada desert had in store as far as real estate.

He ended up investing in condominiums on the outskirts of Vegas, and now lives down there six months of the year.

But despite his experience, with 30 years in the Canadian and international entertainment industry as a corporate entertainer and public concert performer, Larrabee has yet to perform in Vegas.

“Before I die I want to say I played Vegas,” he said. “The Strip has changed a lot when I first went there when I was 28. If you can’t bring a following of one million fans, they won’t even look at you. This year, I’m going down there and will be talking to a few agents. I’ve been looking at venues closer to where I live.”

For now, the Elvis and everything-under-the sun tribute artist is making a return visit to these parts. His upcoming show in Vernon promises to be an evening filled with a mix of music, talent and humour that keeps audiences laughing and clapping all night long.

“It’s been seven-to-eight years since I was last in those neck of the woods. It’s gone quickly,” said Larrabee, who for this show will perform 15-to-18 characters all in costume. “There’ll be new stuff and the show is new every time because the audience is different. I adapt it to the audience and there’s always improv and I also have a bag of shtick that I rely on.”

Larrabee’s introduction to entertaining people started as a coping mechanism.

Raised by a single mom who worked as a waitress, he moved every six months while a child, including all over B.C.,  and says he had to think quick on his feet to adapt.

“I got some of my ideas from The Nutty Professor and Jerry Lee Lewis. He got into a lot of scrapes but he always made people laugh,” said Larrrabee.

By the time he was 21 years old, Larrabee knew just about every song Elvis ever recorded and entered a talent show in Edmonton after his girlfriend at the time said he needed to do something with his voice.

“That was the ‘80s. To sing Elvis then was novel,” said Larabbee, who knew that he was onto something when a waitress leapt into his lap after his performance and said, “you sound just like him.”

“I got into the business for all the wrong reasons, but in 30 years I have never had to take out liability insurance,” he laughed.

And although Larrabee can impersonate up to 50 “celebrities,” he also writes and performs his own music, and in 2010 went to Nashville to record an album he describes as being a mix of country and Bublé balladry.

“I hired rhythm, horn and string sections and backup singers and was recording in the same studio as Wynonna Judd. We used one of her back-up singers on the album.”

Larrabee’s live shows now include a “mash-up” of characters and some audience participation.

“I do a Dean Martin roast and need to find someone to play Liz Taylor or I’ll do Elwood Blues and I have to find someone to do the Belushi part who’s willing to put a lampshade on his head.”

The there’s Buddy Holly, whom Larrabee performs as Harold from The Red Green Show.

“He thinks he’s a sex symbol. And then I’ll turn around and do music such as Feeling Good by (Michael) Bublé. I take it from one extreme to another… The audience doesn’t know who is coming out next. They love the anticipation part.”

The Larrabee Live, Las Vegas to You Tour arrives at the Schubert Centre Friday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $30/adult and $25/senior at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.