Solid Gold Soul more than a trip down memory lane

Tahoe Onstage

“What’s Goin’ On” — Solid Gold Soul is presented four times a week at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

Solid Gold Soul can be harvested this summer at elevation 6,283 feet, but there “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to keep people from connecting to the nation’s most beloved music.

Presented at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Thursday through Monday until Labor Day, Solid Gold Soul features a 13-member cast that recreates songs from entertainers such as Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Sly & The Family Stone and Stevie Wonder.

“For us, 13 is a lucky number,” said Nannette Barbera, the producer and choreographer who has assembled a number of Las Vegas strip headliners a single show.

“I told the leads, ‘If you want to do a traditional tribute show, this isn’t the show for you.’ I want to take ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ ‘The Voice’ and all the successful television shows and ball them up into one explosive piece of dynamite.”

Gary Sprewell sings Little Anthony.

The 90-minute performance not only brings impressions of the stars back to the South Shore Room stage, it also emulates variety television programs from the 1960s and ‘70s. Dick Clark might describe it as a history lesson with a beat you can dance to. Comedy and dancing are part of the show, which is enhanced with humor and legendary tales by host Bobby Brooks Wilson.

Wilson’s stunning visual and vocal likeness to the great R&B singer Jackie Wilson is not an act. Soul Gold Soul’s frontman is the son of Jackie Wilson.

Between the songs and eight costume changes, Wilson shares behind-the scenes stories and anecdotes about the creation of doo-wop, soul, R&B, funk and disco. It’s “Hot Stuff.” Just ask Donna Summer’s doppelganger.

“This is the best cast in the whole world,” said Marva Scott, who portrays Donna Summer, Diana Ross and Martha Reeves. “It’s a fun a show and fun music. It’s a period piece for the dancers but for us old Baby Boomers there was nothing you had to study.”

Most of the entertainers portrayed actually performed on the same South Shore stage, including the producer. Starting at age 18, Barbera choreographed and danced in shows at Harrah’s for seven years. Her first production was “Hotter and Hotter.” She remembers lighting tech Brian Chandler and wardrobe supervisor Elfie Klementi, who are both still at Harrah’s, now in charge of the backstage operations.

The performance also stirs memories.

“This show is to do the music the way it is supposed to be done,” Wilson said. “Play it and present it the way it was presented when it was released. By doing that, it takes people down memory lane. … For the most part, people leave our show feeling excited, healed and happy. That’s my goal.

“I want to stay as close to the (original) as possible, because that triggers the memory. The show is intended to trigger memories and take people back. Marva Scott really creates Diana Ross. Early Clover is still a member of the Coasters. He also has that sound of the early years of rock and roll. He has an undeniable sound.”

Clover portrays Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Do you know why there is a whistle solo in Redding’s posthumous and greatest hit? The story told at Solid Gold Soul is unforgettable.

Denita Asberry brings down the house when she plays Aretha Franklin. Asberry is a former Pip, a backup singer for Gladys Knight. On Aug. 29, she will audition for “The Voice.”

Gary Sprewell plays bass and on occasion sings like Little Anthony. His falsetto has no doubt left tears on many pillows.

Also in the band are saxophonist Fitz MaGee, guitarist Alan Palmer, keyboardist Eric Hackett and drummer Derek Autry. Jennifer Frosch and Caitlyn Parker are dancers, and Gabriella Zapata and Chealsea Stevens dance and sing as members of The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas.

— Tim Parsons

— Solid Gold Soul is presented at 8 p.m. Thursday through Monday in the South Shore Room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. TICKETS Hosted by Bobby Wilson, the son of the great Jackie Wilson, the revue is a celebration of soul, R&B, doo wop and funk presented by a variety of soulful singers, virtuosic musicians and graceful dancers. Hear the music of Jackie Wilson, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, Donna Summers, Sly & The Family Stone and much more. Wilson shares stories and inside anecdotes about the nation’s greatest music.

Related story: Bobby Brooks Wilson enjoying the ride of his life.

To see more photos of the show, click here.

Tahoe Onstage

Marva Scott gives a Supreme performance at Solid Gold Soul.

Tahoe Onstage

Bobby Brooks Wilson sings like Sam Cooke to Chealsea Stevens.

Tahoe Onstage

Denita Asberry has much “Respect” singing Aretha Franklin.

Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage

Producer-Choreographer Nannette Barbera and Tim Parsons with Tahoe Onstage.

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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