Elton John, Billy Joel tribute debuts at Paramount
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media December 26, 2013 4:19PM
Craig A. Meyer performs as Elton John during “Piano Men: A Tribute to Elton John & Billy Joel.” | HANDOUT PHOTO
‘Piano Men: A Tribute to Elton John & Billy Joel,’
6 and 10 p.m. Dec. 31, Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. $55. (630) 896-6666; paramountaurora.com
The Paramount Theatre in Aurora will ring in the New Year with a new act: “Piano Men: A Tribute to Elton John & Billy Joel.”
“I looked at the Billy Joel tribute artists currently working and they did not bring everything to the show that I would have liked,” said singer and pianist Craig A. Meyer, who has been portraying Elton John in the “Almost Elton John & The Rocket Band” show for the past five years.
“Donnie Kehr and I have known each other for 20 years. We had talked about doing a Billy Joel/Elton John tribute show in the past, so we said, ‘Here’s our opportunity. Let’s do it.’ This is an inaugural show for us. My hope is to continue it.”
“Piano Men: A Tribute to Elton John & Billy Joel” will be presented at 6 and 10 p.m. Dec. 31 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. The 10 p.m. performance will include a champagne toast and party favors.
The tribute to the two great singer/songwriters will include such hits as: “Piano Man,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Just the Way You Are,” “Rocket Man,” “You May Be Right,” “Saturday Night’s Alright” and “Movin’ Out,” among others. The two pianists are backed by a seven-piece band.
“We do some things like Billy Joel and Elton John did when they toured together,” Meyer said. “Donnie [as Billy] starts the show with some solo songs and I finish Act I with some of Elton John’s hits. In the second act, we are playing each other’s songs together. We are both at grand pianos. We trade off verses. I play, he sings. Then he plays and I sing.”
Both Meyer and Kehr are Broadway veterans and self-taught pianists. Kehr was a performer in the original Broadway companies of “The Who’s Tommy,” “Billy Elliot: The Musical” and “Jersey Boys.” Meyer created the role of Clinton Badger in the classic musical “Meet Me in St. Louis” on Broadway and toured nationally in “Cats” as Skimbleshanks and as The Red Caboose in “Starlight Express.”
Meyer has great reverence for the talents of the twopop icons in the tribute show.
“What attracted me to these performers as a kid was that they are storytellers,” said Meyer, who performed his Elton John show at the Paramount in May of 2012. “Billy Joel wrote his own words and music. Elton John did the majority of his writing with Bernie Taupin. Billy Joel’s ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant’ is an entire lifetime of two people. Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets’ is a great story. They are great storytellers who happen to tell their stories through music.”
And bringing the two personalities to the stage requires a certain skill set.
“It’s all about the music, the voice and the look, but you also have to embody that person and engage the audience,” Meyer said.
“You must be able to be in the moment. When audience members shout things out you have to ‘play it off,’ do some banter and have a good time.”