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MICHAEL JACKSON HISTORY II
DIRECTOR: Johnny van Grinsven
CAST: Kenny Wizz as Michael Jackson and six dancers
BAND: Richard Baker (musical director, bass player and vocalist); Nicholas McCreadie (drums); Tony Cowell (guitar); Giles Tingey (keyboard, vocals); Giselle Bouwer (vocals); Dale Scheepers (keyboard, vocals)
DANCE CAPTAIN: Clasina van Grinsven
VENUE: The Mandela at Joburg Theatre
UNTIL: February 10
Tribute shows aren’t really my favourite and having experienced a very bad Jackson tribute a while back, my expectations were low.
For fans, the excellent Billy Jean with all the now memorable moves would be enough to warrant the time and the money spent. With a show that is this well produced, choreography well executed and music that reminds us of the richness of the Jackson talent, it’s as if all the memories come flooding back.
Michael Jackson is probably the toughest act to follow but Wizz had been impersonating him for years before his death and decided to honour his memory by reviving and revitalising his performance of a man referred to as the King of Pop.
It is his performance that drives the show and that makes it work. His singing is not the best but works most of the time except in some of the slower solo moments when all the focus is on his voice. Once he moves, he becomes Jackson and right in front of me I had three fans giving him all their approval. There couldn’t be higher praise. They’re already mimicking all the moves, he better get them right – and he does.
It is in the movement which is constant that the illusion is maintained. And the thrill is the intimacy of the show which wouldn’t have been possible with the real thing. It seldomly works when music flows from one song to the next because the momentum is difficult to maintain but because of Michael’s music, the familiarity, the moves that accompany every song and the way Wizz finds the Jackson persona in the total performance, it works magnificently.
Not being the target audience, I would not have been surprised if left with scepticism but I was pleasantly surprised that the show reminded me of a great talent. And surely that’s the test.
Fans will be delighted and overwhelmed by the wizardry of Kenny Wizz. He pays tribute, he adds the glove and towards the end of the show can’t resist a touch of tawdry sentimentality but when he brings on Billy Jean and Thriller, all is forgiven.
If only the fans would sit so that one can fully appreciate those moves. It’s tough to catch every tap of the toes through the swing and sway of the adoring masses. But who can blame them with those strong Jackson beats. Get on those dancing shoes!
And well done to all the South Africans in the show, it added some local heartbeat.