PORT ANGELES – His show is titled “The Rocket Man,” yet Scotsman Rus Anderson is no Elton John impersonator.
Instead, he’s a musician seeking the essence of Sir Elton, he says.
With a “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”-themed set, the performer embarks on a voyage into the 1970s, with stops ranging from “Bennie and the Jets” and “Tiny Dancer” to “Crocodile Rock” and naturally “Rocket Man.”
He leaps into one costume after another – and most of all, Anderson said, he embodies Elton John’s joy.
“I try to capture his ’70s persona. It’s all about that smile, and how you make the audience feel,” said Anderson, who grew up in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Even though Elton never took himself seriously,” he said in an interview, “when he sat down at that piano, he played the most beautiful songs.”
Anderson will bring the “Rocket Man” to the Olympic Peninsula this Tuesday night in a Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts Season Concert.
Show time is 7 p.m. at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave., with tickets available at JFFA.org, at Port Book and News in Port Angeles and at the door.
Anderson’s wife, in addition to being his road manager, Somali Rose, has been co-creating the “Rocket Man” since 2009. She taught herself to make a variety of Elton Johnesque ensembles.
The extravagant outfits “are living, moving art,” she said, and “from the moment that curtain opens, you are transported back into the ’70s. That sounds cliché, but it’s as if we’ve built a little world, and you get to immerse yourself in it: in the music, the costumes, the stories Russell tells.
“It’s an amalgam of a ’70s rock concert and a theatrical production. We’ve worked really hard on it.”
Somali Rose, who is from Secaucus, N.J., met her husband-to-be about a dozen years ago while both were working in the theater community in Clearwater, Fla. She was a carpenter on stage sets; he was a singer.
“People would say, ‘You remind us of Elton John,’” Anderson recalled, though he doesn’t think he looks much like the Englishman born Reginald Dwight in 1947.
“My wife and I wondered what it would be like just to do a night of Elton John: get some costumes together and put together a show with just me and the piano,” he said.
“The first show sold out, so we put on a second show, and that one sold out as well,” he added.
”The St. Petersburg Times made a big article about it, and the phone started ringing. We started booking more shows. We hired a band, and now we play at theaters and performing arts centers. We’ve been keeping real busy.”
In 2017 Anderson got a phone call from the Elton John organization. The representative asked if he would consider appearing in promotional materials for the artist’s farewell tour.
This turned into an excellent gig – one that, like the farewell tour, is ongoing. Anderson has not only worked with Elton John’s producers on the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour materials, but he also plays Elton in “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road” on the Roblox virtual reality app.
Yet it’s that live performance – of music released on big, black, vinyl records five decades ago – that still electrifies the performer.
He looks out into the audience and sees grandparents, teenagers – and fans his own age. Now 42, Anderson wasn’t yet born when Elton John had his first hit, “Your Song,” in 1970. He didn’t witness the artist’s rise to stardom in the following decade, when 11 of his singles sold 1 million copies or more. Anderson was just a toddler when “I’m Still Standing” became a huge hit in 1983, and a teenager by the time Sir Elton had two hits, “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” from the movie “The Lion King.”
Anderson’s connection to the superstar, however, isn’t only about flamboyance and fame.
“As a piano player and a singer, I’m a huge fan. it really is a privilege to play this music,” he said.
Sir Elton’s oeuvre has influenced today’s galaxy of pop performers, Anderson added, from Lady Gaga on to the latest K-pop star.
When it comes to the “Rocket Man” show, he said, there are no breaks in the action. During a guitar solo, he’ll run offstage and reappear in an entirely different costume.
Each of those outfits was constructed, thread for thread, by Somali Rose. There’s one made with ping pong balls. Another is hand-quilted satin, a pair of suspended pants almost like overalls, with many dozens of shimmering pieces sewn together.
“It’s really showstopping,” the costumer promised.
Anderson, for his part, noted this will be the first time the “Rocket Man” touches down in this part of the country.
“We’re so excited. When you can introduce it to a whole new audience, that comes with the butterflies,” he said.
“I can’t wait.”
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