PROVO - From the first stutter of Jimmy Stewart to the last strains of John Wayne paying tribute to America, impressionist Rich Little had the crowds at Cougar Stadium in the palm of his hand.Little, guest entertainer for Alan Osmond Production's Stadium of Fire, utilized his gift of impression to entertain and delight the crowds. Even the children in attendance were able to relate to the entertainer, who brought the voices of Kermit the Frog and his girlfriend, Miss Piggie, to center stage. Little's version of George Burns was perhaps the only segment of his presentation that left the audience a little uncomfortable and remembering some of Bob Hope's risque presentation at last year's panorama.
Referring to George Burns' age, he said, "I'm so old, I can remember when air was clean and sex was dirty."
But the crowd soon picked up the laughter when Little continued as Burns and said he (Burns) was so old his Social Security number was 2, and Ronnie Reagan's was 1.
Little continued with the Reagan jokes by saying that he remembered the first picture Reagan made "was on the wall of a cave."
Not only did Little entertain with his impersonations, but his entire body and countenance reflected the character of the person he was mimicking. This trademark has made Little one of the leading impressionists in the world who's often been called on to help dub in voices for famous stars who were unable to complete movies and other engagements.
Little really won the crowd over when he did his famous Johnny Carson impression of Carnack the Magnificent, "The answer is New Orleans, Chicago and Salt Lake City. The question is, name two cities known for jazz and one city with the real Jazz."
Little shared many of the more than 200 voices he has characterized since he came to the United States in 1965. His spoof on the four living presidents, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon at a press conference had the crowd laughing so hard that it was difficult to hear many of the punch lines.
Little, who voiced his pleasure at the entire panorama and "Stadium of Fire," took time out to add a little political flavor to the night, asking that the audience be careful as to who they vote for. He said he is hoping they will vote for someone with a voice he could learn to imitate.
In the voice of President Reagan, Little played up the old age tease he has given the president on several occasions. Stammering and shaking his head for what seemed to be an eternity, Little finally belted out the famous first word, "Well."
Perhaps the most moving part of Little's presentation was at the end, when with the help of the likes of Walter Cronkite, Raymond Burr, John Houseman, Kirk Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Lancaster, David Brinckley and John Wayne, he paid tribute to America.
In the voice of James Cagney he said, "What a great place to live this world would be, if all nations were like America and all men were free."
"God Bless the United States of America," was his final sentiment as he concluded with the voice of John Wayne.
A feeling of patriotism was pres-ent throughout the evening, and though he's Canadian, Little paid tribute not only to America but to the State of Utah and the people he had met during his short stay.
It is hard to be critical when there are nearly 50 characters rolled into one star, but Rich Little gave his presentation with such finesse and professionalism, there must be many of his characters who wish they had that same ability.