Village People ready to disco at the Egyptian Theatre
For the past 40 years, Village People have been entertaining the world with the hits "Y.M.C.A.," "Macho Man" and "In the Navy."
Eric Anzalone has been with the group for the past 20 years. He replaced Glenn Hughes as the biker, who, in turn had replaced original member Lee Mouton in 1978.
"It was pretty cool when I came into the group in the mid to early 1990s, disco had a rebirth," Anzalone said during an interview with The Park Record. "It went away for the ’80s because it was taboo after what happened with the Disco is Dead movement in the late 1970s. So, it was really cool when I joined."
The first six months Anzalone was in Village People, the group played the "Tonight Show" twice and made an appearance on "Oprah."
"Within the first year I was in the group, we did a film ("Down Periscope") with Kelsey Grammer and Rob Schneider," he said. "It was like a baptism by fire for me." Anzalone and his Village People compadres will mark another first, a three-night run in Park City at the Egyptian Theatre, starting on Jan. 6.
"I can’t think of the last time we were in Park City, so this will be something new and we’re looking forward to it," he said.
The performance will feature all the hits, and, above all, a great time.
"We do understand that we have been blessed and our image, which often precedes us, is bigger than us and for that we are thankful," Anzalone said. "The group has been in the business for more than four decades and the fact that we can still tour and have the following we still do is just a blessing."
Being in such an iconic group does come with a sense of duty.
"A lot of people who have had success often get defensive and say, ‘It’s my life and I can do whatever I want,’ but the reality is there is a responsibility of being in a group like Village People," Anzalone said. "That may sound old-school to say, but I would say we are a band, first and foremost, and are up there trying to give the best show we can.
"As far as anything political, controversial or religious, we stay out of it all, because we’re just about music," he said. "If you come to a Village People show, you won’t hear us preaching about anything one way or another. We keep our personal lives out of it."
With that responsibility comes another challenge.
"As we get older, we still are trying to give the best show we can, albeit there will be a few more grunts and groans," Anzalone said with a laugh. "We’re like old football players and we ice ourselves after the show, but it’s not fair to our audience if we don’t deliver. They want to see our best. They don’t care if we traveled 30 hours from Brazil, which we did last week."
A big part of the show is knowing when to tweak the choreography.
"We have to do our big hits, the stuff we have been doing for four decades, but we do have to keep things fresh," Anzalone said. "Sure we have been doing the core stuff for ‘Y.M.C.A.’ since the get go, but we will change things. For example, instead of a squat, we’ll do a turn, but we always try to think of something fun if we do change it."
Most of Village People’s choreography is done by someone close to the group.
"Ray Simpson, who has been the police officer since 1979, has a daughter who is a successful hip-hop dancer and has toured pretty much with everyone," Anzalone said. "She choreographs a lot of stuff for us and will take something and update it to the 21st century.
"Of course, when she does it, we all go, ‘Man, that looks awesome, but when we do it, we look like a bunch of dorky old guys who are trying to look cool," he said with another laugh. "So, we’ll try to find something in the middle."
Anzalone joined Village People after answering an ad in the Village Voice.
"I had been working in show business for a while and the last big gig I had done back then was with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that led to doing voice-over work and touring live with the Turtles," he said. "That’s what brought me to New York and I had my sights set on Broadway."
Anzalone had performed and enjoyed some success in the 1980s in rock bands in Los Angeles, so he decided to look for a band to join while working to get to the Great White Way.
"That’s when I saw an ad that read, ‘Well-known group looking for a singer with a passport,’" he said. "That’s all it said, and I thought, ‘If they want someone with a passport, that means they’re working.’"
So, Anzalone sent in a package that included a demo recording, pictures and resume.
"A month later I got a call from management and I asked them the name of the band," he said. "They said ‘Village People’ and I said, ‘Oh, a cover or tribute band?’ And they said, ‘No.’"
Anzalone met with management and with his predecessor, Hughes, and the rest is history.
"The first time I performed on stage for an audience with the group, I remember looking over to my left and seeing Alex Briley, the original soldier, and looking to my right and seeing Felipe Rose, the original Native American, and thinking, ‘Oh, my God. I’m in Village People,’" Anzalone said. "I actually stopped singing because it hit me and that was a cool feeling."
Anzalone’s favorite Village People hit is "Macho Man."
"I’m a heavy-metal, hard-rock guy but even going back to when ‘Macho Man’ first came out, I mean those first chords have that powerful feel," he said. "I’ve heard a few metal covers of ‘Macho Man’ and it’s a song that you can do that easily to. It’s a strong power-chord song with a hooky, easy to sing-along chorus."
Village People will perform at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., from Wednesday, Jan. 6, through Sunday, Jan. 10. Performances on Jan. 6 to Jan. 9 will begin at 8 p.m. Curtain for Jan. 10 is 6 p.m. Tickets for the Wednesday and Thursday concert range from $43 to $70. Tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday range from $49 to $80. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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