Byline: Jim Seavor

Close your eyes and imagine: you’re sitting in a small performance space in Pawtucket. It’s really little more than a lecture hall with a handful of theater seats and four or five rows of benches – and you’re watching Bette Midler.

You’re right. You are not watching Midler. But the space is real and you’re watching Eddie Edwards as Midler. He was featured performer at this year’s RI Pride Spotlight Awards.

Eddie and his twin brother, Anthony, have become familiar faces – many faces – in Rhode Island. They are “celebrity illusionists.” In their show, Eddie does the female stars such as Streisand, Cher and Midler. Anthony handles the male performers: think Elton John and Neil Diamond.

I met them 11 years ago when we talked for a story I did for that other, and much larger, paper in town.

This year they’ve been selling out at Via Roma, where they’re performing what Eddie calls “Scatter dates” and developing new shows. They’ve just introduced one in which they perform Sinatra duets with Michael Dutra as Sinatra, and Eddie is putting together a show that will have a single performance in March.

A little background – they were born in 1965. Eddie, who wanted to become an actor, went into drag when he learned how much it paid. Anthony almost became a policeman in San Diego until he learned about the money Eddie was making. But drag wasn’t for him.

Unlike many impersonators, they do not lip-synch to the actual stars. The voices you hear are their own. Anthony also supplies the piano when he’s Elton John.

Eddie says that Anthony does more of the production work but Eddie is putting on that show in March. “It’s a one time thing” he says.

The Sinatra show was given its first performance in November.

Eddie describes it as a “remake” of his duets album. Sinatra didn’t sing live with any of his co-stars on the album. Eddie calls what they are doing a “concert that never was.”

Who comes to see the Edwards twins?

In the late 1990s it was a mostly straight and conservative audience. It still is. And that’s the audience they’re aiming at. Or, as Eddie puts it, “We’ve gotten rich on the straight, conservative community.”

That doesn’t mean they don’t want us to drop by. Just the opposite. It just means the humor is not camp nor is it a typical drag show. “What we do is amazing for them” Eddie says.

As for the Diva show he’s producing in March, Eddie has named it Legendary Divas. He’s called in people he knows to perform as everyone from Cher to Lady Gaga. “Bette Midler” will host the show, and Eddie is bringing back a number in which he sings a duet with himself. Half of his costume is Streisand. The other half is the Phantom of the Opera. Which side he shows the audience depends on which performer is singing.

The divas will be out in force at the Stadium Theater on March 19. For more information call 762-4545.

And if you want to spend New Year’s Eve with a lot of celebrities, they will be at what used to be the El Morocco in Johnston. (It’s now the Johnston Senior Center.) The Sinatra Duets will go on at 2 p.m. and later the twins will bring in the New Year with a dinner and show there. Call 331-1717 for more information.