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Tribute artists bring music of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton to Empress Theatre

Wendy Engler and Marty Edwards will perform as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

Wendy Engler and Marty Edwards will perform as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

The music of country stars Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton comes to the stage of the Empress Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 9.
Marty Edwards and Wendy Engler perform their tribute “Together Again” at 7:30 p.m. in a show that will be familiar to fans of the country stars.
“What we’ve tried to do is recreate the 1983 Real Love tour that Kenny and Dolly did,” Edwards said Friday during a telephone interview.
During the Real Love tour Parton kicked off the show on her own, with Rogers then taking the stage by himself.
The country legends sang their individual hit songs to start the show.
“The finale of the show was some duets,” Edwards said. “We’ve taken that a little bit further with the duets in particular, for a couple of reasons.”
“One is we really love the duets. I love singing with Wendy and we have such a great rapport on stage, and we’re good friends off the stage.”
The second reason the “Together Again” show features more duets than the original is in response to audience demand.
“The real magic is when they’re together,” Edwards said. “At the outdoor festivals, you can see there is an actual surge toward the stage.”
As a teenager in Ontario, Edwards never imagined himself performing Kenny Rogers tribute shows. Edwards decided while in high school that he wanted to become a musician after watching a local high school band perform at an outdoor mall.
Edwards, who already knew how to sing and performed for family and friends at his mother’s urging, learned to play guitar and was soon in a band.
At the age of 21 Edwards formed the three-piece country band Canada Goose that enjoyed popularity on the local circuit. The band stayed together for about 15 years, changing names and styles over the years.
Tired of the grind and realizing the band would never make it big, Edwards stepped away and went to university to earn a degree in computer science.
Edwards did well in that field, owning his own development company.
“The lure of the music was always there,” Edwards said. “I think once you’ve been on stage it’s tough to walk away from it. It called me back.”
Edwards returned to music on a part-time basis, performing the music that he wanted to do, including some original material.
While recording an album of his own original material in 1998, Edwards was encouraged by producer James Bowers to consider striking out as a Kenny Rogers tribute artist. Bowers told Edwards he had the voice and the look to make a go of it.
Edwards and his wife put together the benefit show “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” to raise money for abused children, working with the Vancouver Police Union Charitable Foundation.
As part of that benefit, Edwards put together a Kenny Rogers tribute of three songs that drew praise from audience members. He planned the tribute as a one-time effort, but was coaxed into making it a regular part of the benefits, which continued for eight years.
“It just mushroomed from there,” Edwards said. “In the last 20 years it has taken me around the world.”
Edwards performs across Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Malaysia, England, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.
Edwards feels a responsibility when representing Kenny Rogers, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013 and that same year received the lifetime achievement award from the Country Music Association.
“I’ve always thought of myself being basically an ambassador for Kenny Rogers,” said Edwards, who has done his tribute on Oprah, the Tonight Show and CNN Headline News.
Edwards, who has met Kenny Rogers and has received endorsements from the country star for various gigs, said there are three aspects to being a tribute artist.
“You’ve got to have the look right off the bat,” Edwards said. “The look is really important. I was fortunate that I don’t do anything other than shave my beard a little differently.”
After the audience gets used to the look they start to listen closely, and the performer has to have the right sound.
“Part and parcel of that, the third thing, is mannerisms,” said Edwards, who has spent hours studying video of Rogers’ performances. “Kenny Rogers has some specific mannerisms through his whole show, and I recreate that.”
Wendy Engler has been performing as Dolly Parton for more than 10 years.
Engler has headlined in Atlantic City and Las Vegas with the famed Legends in Concert, and has toured internationally.
On Sept. 9 Edwards and Engler plan to deliver a memorable show at the Empress Theatre.
“We’ve got some nice surprises for people,” Edwards said. “For us, it’s about entertainment.”

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