Throwing on a wig. Slipping into the proper purple attire. Dabbing make-up on his face. This is how Gabriel Sanchez starts his transformation before every show. Vocal exercises, running through dance moves, going through guitar chords and trying to best perfect his performance before hitting the stage, Sanchez gets ready to emulate a recently lost legend, Prince – just like he will Friday night at the Riverside.
Sanchez decided to take on making this transformation and performing as Prince back in 2004. It all started when a small theater company asked him to play Prince in its upcoming stage adaptation of "Purple Rain. At first, he was apprehensive since he had no actual acting experience. But he was a huge fan of Prince and his work, so after much consideration, he decided to give it a chance and started immediately prepping for his first performance as The Purple One.
"I put in a lot of hours studying how he moves and watched the movie over and over again, studying the guitar … and then the dancing parts," Sanchez explains. He was never a big dancer or actor, so those aspects of Prince took him a little longer. The icon's voice, on the other hand, came easier.
"Throughout the years, I learned to copy voices," Sanchez notes, listing Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Jon Lennon and, of course, Prince (with Paul McCartney's currently in the works). He's perfected the famous voices so much that he notes people often come up to him and say, "How do you sound exactly like these artists?"
Being a naturally shy guy, it wasn’t his forte at first to capture Prince's big, sensual personality. As he started performing more and more, however, Sanchez says that "it got easier, and I could go there quicker."
Now, Sanchez says that being Prince "is actually a part of me." As a lover of music, he also performs solo act as himself, Gabriel Sanchez. That side shys away from the type of music Prince sings, leaning more toward rock 'n' roll. However, as he performs his own original tunes, he starts to see the Prince influence come out more and more.
When Prince unexpectedly died on April 21 early this year, everyone felt shocked – especially Sanchez.
"It was very hard to grief," Sanchez explains. When news of Prince’s death hit, Sanchez was bombarded by the media outside his doors, as well as endless e-mails and phone calls. He wasn’t eating and became very overwhelmed by it all. People wanted to know how he was doing with the news, but it didn’t give him a lot of time to have the news sink in.
Once it did, he found sadness in the news, but decided to use that sadness to make his Prince Experience better than ever to make sure the legend lives on properly.
"I always try hard to put on the best show and emulate what it’s like to see Prince," he says. "Even more now, I push myself further as well as the band to make sure we are bringing the best possible Prince Experience there is"
Here are a few other thoughts – and a little preview of his upcoming show – from Gabriel Sanchez, The Prince Experience, before he hits the Riverside Theater stage on Friday, Nov. 25:
OnMilwaukee: What makes you excited about performing at the Riverside Theater?
Gabriel Sanchez: This is a dream of mine. I have passed it so many times. I grew up here and said, "One day, I want to play the Riverside." And then after the Prince band started, I started seeing more that the Prince band would be perfect in there. If we play there, people would come for that and it’s finally happening. I can’t believe this is actually happening, it’s crazy.
What can we expect from your upcoming show?
I have a really huge surprise. I can’t say what’s going to happen, but we are adding a huge digital screen to this show. So that’s going to be fun. I have a brand new costume that I can’t wait to wear. We do the full "Purple Rain" album and plus.
What’s your favorite song to perform?
Well, for sure, it has to be "Purple Rain." It’s one of the main ones. It’s actually hard to get through. It’s very emotional. I think of two people obviously: Prince, now that he’s passed, and my original show when I first did Prince, the costume designer was Razi Alexander.
For ticket information, check out the Pabst website here. And check out his music as the Prince Experience by heading here, http://theprinceexperience.com/ and check out his solo work here, http://www.gabrielsanchezmusic.com/.