The life-changing event took place in Montreal, in 1985. As a first-time participant at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival, Gagnon delivered an incredible act, impersonating, with stunning accuracy, every artist who sang on the U.S.A. For Africa song “We Are The World.”
The residual effects of Gagnon’s appearance were virtually immediate. In addition to an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, show offers from international festivals began pouring in.
The next year – 1986 – Gagnon undertook the first tour of his home province of Quebec, which saw him sell more than 20,000 tickets in just a few hours. By the time the tour wrapped up, Gagnon performed before more than 300,000 people over an astounding 239 shows.
Of course, Gagnon’s career can’t be reduced to being mere footnotes of those two years. In 1998, fellow Quebecer Celine Dion invited Gagnon to share the stage with her as her opening act on her “Let’s Talk About Love” world tour, while the turn of the century saw the impressionist undertake an almost two-year long residence at the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas.
Since then, Gagnon has brought his show all over the world, delighting audiences with impersonations of more than 400 musical superstars, which Metro Moncton audiences will be able to see for themselves at Casino New Brunswick on Thursday evening.
Although Gagnon good-naturedly refuses to spill too many beans of exactly what his performance will entail, he does reassure us that the show will over a little something old and a little something new.
“My current show, like previous performances, looks back on decades of vocalists dating back to the 50’s and 60’s and working our way to the future, up to modern acts like Sam Smith and Milky Chance,” Gagnon says.
Evolving his act to include modern day hit makers like Smith is a given for Gagnon as he strives to have his show appeal to a wide-ranging audience. His isn’t an oldies-only type of show.
“Given the success that Sam Smith has found over the last while, it’s only natural that he would find his way into my show, but it’s not only rock stars that make appear during the course of the performance: It wouldn’t surprise me if newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and maybe even former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien drop in,” Gagnon laughs.
“I am always on the lookout for new voices to incorporate into the show. One of the latest features of my performance includes me doing an impression of someone in the audience. It is a bit more risqué, but it’s an absolute crowd-pleaser each and every time.”
With 30 years now having passed since that fateful performance at Just For Laughs in Montreal, Gagnon shares that he still enjoys the challenge of delivering a show that exceeds the expectations of all who attend.
Whether someone is seeing his show for the first time or the fifth time, Gagnon aims to help create an experience that lasts long after the final notes of the night have rang out.
“I love bringing the element of surprise to the audience. You want to get their attention from the moment you walk on the stage. Music is so powerful that sometimes all it takes is the first few bars or notes of a song for people to react. And of course, people react to different songs for entirely different reasons, whether it is something of personal significance or a memory shared with a collection of others. I love helping evoke those memories in those who attend my show,” Gagnon says.
What: André-Philippe Gagnon
When: Thursday Nov. 5, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $29.99 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca