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SCHENECTADY — A November tradition returns to Proctors as the Groovin’ music concert series is set to take the stage on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m.
Groovin’: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Legends is the latest installment in a series that features cover acts of stars from the 60s and beyond. Albany native Gary Weinlein has produced the show locally and abroad for more than five years. Each November, he donates proceeds to a charitable cause, often something related to benefit our country’s military veterans. This week’s show will benefit the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc.
“It’s a tough gig they have back here,” said Weinlein, of the Blue Star Mothers. “They do the Freedom Boxes. They’re constantly, constantly working, making quilts for the veterans here who are homeless. Helping them get shelter.”
The troupe is filled with familiar faces, both the artists and the doppelgangers they portray. Tommy Love will transform into David Bowie, Krista David Donnelly and returns as Grace Slick.
Making his Proctors debut with Groovin is Tom Raider, who will portray John Lennon.
Lennon is still a favorite among all music fans. His songs with the Beatles, and as a solo act, helped define a generation looking for heroes while growing up in the 60s and 70s. Raider, who grew up in a big family, discovered his ability to imitate Lennon while entertaining himself and his family as a kid.
“As a kid, I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to be an actor or a musician,” said Raider, with a hint of a cockney accent from the Albany native. “So, once I grew up I figured why not try to do both.”
Raider has spent the past several years being Lennon, the last five of which with the band Hey Jude. The years spent concentrating on small detail has helped people pick his act out at times when he wasn’t acting. Once, while in a hurry to catch a flight, Raider tried to rush through a baggage checkpoint at the airport. Just like Lennon, his bespectacled face is draped by a mane of long hair. There’s that well-practiced cockney accent that slips out at times.
And, then, there’s the guitar.
As Raider cleared the checkpoint, he started to run to his terminal before he heard a booming, “Hey!” from behind him. Raider stopped, slowly turned around only to be affirmed that the voice came from one of the security guards and that security guard’s eyes locked on to his.
“John Lennon. Right?”
“You got me, chap,” and off Raider went.
Joining Raider in their respective Proctors debut with Groovin is acclaimed Elvis impersonator Matthew Boyce and burgeoning rock sensation Moriah Formica. Formica splashed onto the national scene when she covered Heart’s “Crazy on You” for NBC’s “The Voice.” She joins this year’s troupe to portray Ann Wilson.
Their attention to details is common among his castmates. Trained musicians, some of whom perform separately on their own, as themselves. This show marks Groovin’s return to Proctors. Last November’s show was showcased at the Palace Theatre in Albany. Many of the acts return each year to help audiences relive the memories of concerts of the past. For them, a connection has been made with the artist each respectively portrays.
“It’s a nice change,” said Weinlein. “Each year I try to get three or four new acts to give people a reason to want to come back and see the old acts, too. Because, they do have favorites of the old acts.”
For tickets and information, call 518-346-6204 or visit proctors.org.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.