Stars of the future give life to voices of the past at the Savannah Theatre

Five young performers bring the ‘Legends Live On’ show to Savannah

click to enlarge The stars of "Legends Live On" stand in front of the historic Savannah Theatre. From left: Deaundre Woods, Justin Reynolds, Alex Hairston, Tracy Byrd, and Noah Rivera - NICK ROBERTSON/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Nick Robertson/Connect Savannah
The stars of "Legends Live On" stand in front of the historic Savannah Theatre. From left: Deaundre Woods, Justin Reynolds, Alex Hairston, Tracy Byrd, and Noah Rivera
Some artists are inspired by past greats. Others are inspired to bring past greats back to life.

The five young performers starring in “Legends Live On” – a decade-hopping revue of energetic song-and-dance tributes to iconic chart-toppers ranging from The Temptations to The Beatles to The Jackson Five to Bruno Mars – are now lighting up the Savannah Theatre’s storied stage, and each of them have ample experience with vocally channeling historic figures.

The show features the four accomplished stars of Legacy – Tracy Byrd, Justin Reynolds, Noah Rivera, and Deaundre Woods – along with widely traveled songstress Alex Hairston, performing with the Savannah Theatre’s house band and a local aerialist on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through Feb. 14.

For New York-based Tracy Byrd, who played Lionel Ritchie in a touring production of “Motown: The Musical,” singing hits from the ’70s and ’80s comes naturally.

“It’s a dream come true to me, honestly,” Byrd said, adding that being in “Legends Live On” gives him greater understanding of the difficult circumstances endured by many of the artists they’re emulating. “I find myself channeling what they were going through when they were singing.”

Justin Reynolds, who performed as Smokey Robinson in “The Marvin Gaye Musical,” also experiences flashbacks to his past role.

“We actually don’t have any Smokey in this show, but we do a whole Temptations medley, which Smokey Robinson wrote a lot of that music,” Reynolds said.

Since Noah Rivera hit the high notes while playing Frankie Valli in the Las Vegas production of “Jersey Boys,” it might be expected that he would belt out all the falsetto parts in “Legends Live On,” but this show calls on all of its performers to use their full vocal ranges.

“I sing bass most of the show, and we all are jumping all over the place,” says Rivera, who now tours with Valli’s ensemble, and meanwhile leads a Four Seasons performance in the “Legends Live On” show.

Shortly before the pandemic struck, Deaundre Woods was playing the title role in the San Francisco production of “Hamilton,” and while the bygone performers that he is channeling in this show are distinguished in a different way than the American statesman, he still feels their historic connections.

“A lot of this music is music that I wish I grew up with,” Woods says of Legacy’s repertoire.

As for Alex Hairston, she’s made a name for herself starring in “The Donna Summer Musical,” and in “Legends Live On” she uses that experience to sing a disco medley.

“I was actually right in the middle of a tour, the ‘Donna Summer’ tour, when the pandemic shut everything down,” Hairston recalls, adding that she’s grateful that this production allows her to “revisit some of those songs, and revisit her spirit in the show.”

All five of these artistes are glad to be staging “Legends Live On” in the historic Savannah Theatre, where pictures of world-renowned actors who have graced this venue hang on numerous walls.

“In 40 years, somebody’s going to be looking at our pictures here,” says Byrd as the ensemble laughs in agreement.

“Legends Live On” is playing at the Savannah Theatre (222 Bull St., Savannah) on Jan. 29, 30, and 31, and Feb. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. (except on Saturday, Feb. 13, with shows at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and Sunday shows are at 3 p.m. To allow for social distancing during performances, audiences are limited to 35% of theater capacity. See savannahtheatre.com for details.

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