By Vickie Evans-Nash
Judging by the response of most of the crowd — “We love you, Michael!,” dancing in the seats, “This is the best show I’ve ever seen.” — Mystic Lake’s “The Ultimate Thriller” on June 7 and 8, was a success. On the night of June 7, the team of musicians and dancers performed for an almost packed house.
Any true fan of Michael Jackson would know that his career was not initiated by the Moon Walk. His unique voice, apparent even during adolescence, was what brought him early fame and kept him there for decades.
So when this Latin-accented look-a-like tried to impersonate a soulful ballad, his voice, though passable, could in no way be confused with the King of Pop. For this critic, a Jackson fan since childhood, I could only describe the show as “Bad,” and not in the way Michael intended.
To his credit, this impersonator had many of the dance moves down pat, but so have many youth around the country and worldwide, especially in the ’hood. Even his dancing was only true to Michael’s form when he stuck to the scripted moves of Jackson’s many videos.
The upside of performances to “Bad” and “Black or White” was that the moves were extracted exactly as Michael had performed them, with “Smooth Criminal” being the best example of the performer’s talent hands down. However, when it came to creating dance moves to songs with no video choreography, he gave the impression of youth playing Dance, Dance Revolution — left foot here, right foot there, hand on crotch.
In fact, “Beat It” offered the audience a Michael whose hand seemed super glued to his crotch. During “Billy Jean,” the screaming crowd made this reviewer feel like I was at a Rocky Horror Picture Show, where an engaged audience — not the performance — created the excitement.
On ballads like “Heal the World,” “She’s Out of My Life” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” the loud background music seemed intentional in covering up the weakness of his voice. And in “Man in the Mirror,” a song where the gospel-influenced background is at one point just as strong as Michael’s lead, the background vocals were at their weakest.
Over the weekend I watched This Is It for the first time, wondering if there was a Michael “The Ultimate Thriller” audience was remembering that I had no recollection of. I discovered a talented artist whose health seemed to be deteriorating on screen. Viewers were allowed sneak-peeks of the person this musical prodigy used to be.
I then became aware that this was the Michael the impersonator chose to highlight, plucked directly from the movie to create this Ultimate Thriller. Most of the scenes appeared to be complete replicas of the film.
In This Is It, Jackson speaks of conserving his voice; he used it sparingly during the videoed practices. This impersonator must have taken the sparring performance to heart, and perhaps audience members who only knew Michael from This Is It did as well.
This Michael from This Is It was a mere shadow of the Michael I grew up with and mainly captured his demise rather than the unique gifts of talent he offered the world.
Vickie Evans-Nash welcomes reader response to [email protected]