By PAM HARBAUGH
It’s and empty cultural Christmas without Melbourne Civic Theatre and Alfie Silva. Really. Even though the theater’s director, Peg Girard, frequently mounts a proper play during the “high season,” it’s just not quite festive enough without our favorite Dean Martin/Elvis/Johnny Cash/Etc. stand-in.
This time, MCT’s Christmas Show show puts Alfie in the center with three supporting ensemble performers – Kim Cole, Corinne Marie and David Hill. But the star is Silva.
The show is inspired by old television variety shows and by the wealth of celebrity impersonations in Silva’s entertainment arsenal, which includes Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Tom Jones and Dean Martin. In years past, he has sold out MCT houses with his Christmas with Dino show.
This new show, he said, is a culmination of his “Impressions Unplugged” in which he comes on stage as himself and then transforms into various characters.
“This is not a legends all impersonation show,” he said. “It’s a variety show and I just happen to be the variety – the turkey and the stuffing.”
Silva does the impersonations so well that he’s made a name for himself professionally in both Las Vegas where he performed as Dean Martin at The Venetian hotel and Memphis where he worked with Elvis Enterprises.
“People said that I embodied the person and sounded eerily like these people,” Silva said. “Especially when I worked in Memphis with Elvis’ musicians for ‘Elvis Week’ and did special events with Sun Records, where Elvis first recorded in the ‘50s.”
He has performed the Christmas with Dino show six times at MCT and always sells out.
“I got to become pretty good friends with Dean Martin’s granddaughter,” he said. “She and her mother listened to my tracks and said Dean would be very, very pleased.”
To get to the sweet spot in the impersonations, Silva uses an unusual tool – a stainless steel salad bowl. Holding it up to his head, he puts one edge of the bowl at his ear then rather wraps the bowl around to his mouth.
That way, he said, he can “auto tune” his voice. He starts with a phrase and then pinpoints a word. For example, when he works on a Johnny Carson impersonation, he says “That’s wild,” then works the word “wild” until it sounds like Carson. When he works on his Donald Trump impersonation, he uses the words “huge” and “fantastic” to get to the right spot.
Although he’s at ease in the limelight, Silva was once painfully shy. In fact, it was shyness that led him into the field of celebrity impersonations.
“I grew up as a really fat, shy kid,” he said. “I was deadly socially phobic. I wouldn’t even go into the grocery store with my mom. I had a horrible fear being in public or around people. I learned doing these impressions I could disappear into these people. I could escape my fear.
“When my grandfather passed away, he was my best friend, I dove into the world of performing and doing Elvis. I got notoriety and started traveling and went all over the country performing Elvis from the time I was 15. That’s how I got started.”
While he’s made a living in his multiple one-man celebrity impersonation shows, Silva donates his time and talent to MCT in order to help raise funds for the 67-year old community theater.
It’s important, he said, because the arts, and especially theater, is what kept him from dropping out of high school.
When Silva isn’t performing for private parties or at clubs, or taking the stage at MCT, he runs his own businesses – Alfie’s Barber Shop in downtown Melbourne and the newly opened Alfie’s Barber and Cigar Shop in Cocoa Village. He also has an antiques shop called Alfie’s Trading Company. He and his fiancée, Katie Skiba, own a circus arts school called Cirque Athletics in Melbourne.
But he loves performing and finds the lure continues.
“Alfie is the cat’s meow,” said MCT director Peg Girard. “Everyone loves him. He’s a remarkable entertainer.”
SIDE O’ GRITS: MCT’s Christmas Show runs through Dec. 24 at Melbourne Civic Theatre, 817 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. There will also be a special 2 p.m. performance Dec. 24. Tickets are $30. Service fees may apply. It’s selling briskly, so either step away from the computer and call 321-723-6935 or buy tickets by clicking here or by clicking on their ad.
This is an edited version of a story running in the Melbourne Beachsider.