Michael Jackson is no easy act to follow. His start with the Jackson Five, his break-out success as a solo artist, the phenomenon of the “Thriller” album and subsequent albums, the voice, the Moonwalk, the glove, the eccentric lifestyle, the changing appearance, the King of Pop, Lisa Marie Presley, court trials and his unexpected death.
Creating a tribute show to such a changing series of phenomena poses numerous challenges. Do you seek an artist who can present the young Michael of Jackson Five fame with hits such as “ABC” and “I’ll Be There”? Or do you focus on the era with hits like “Thriller,” and “Billie Jean”? Or delve deeper into the later years with “Bad,” “Man in the Mirror,” etc.? Do you seek the singer or the dancer? The man or the icon?
To present “King Michael,” executive producer Steve Love and producer/director Darrin Ross felt it would take three performers to do Michael Jackson justice. A performer for three different aspects of Jackson’s career.
This week, all three performers and a dance company will bring “King Michael” to life on the Mathis City Auditorium stage as the opening show of the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts Presenter Series.
“From early moments with his brothers to his stratospheric rise to become the greatest entertainer of all time, this multi-media spectacular includes Michael Jackson’s greatest hits: ‘Billie Jean,’ ‘Beat It,’ ‘Thriller,’ ‘Man in the Mirror,’ and more! Featuring artists who sing live while mastering the intense dancing that King Michael was famous for ... including a world-class dance company,” according to the arts center.
To fill more seats and introduce more people to the professional, nationally touring shows sponsored by the Presenter Series, co-chairs Nancy Warren and Joanna Nijem and the arts center have arranged for discounted ticket prices for “King Michael.” An individual Presenter Series ticket is normally $45; a “King Michael” ticket is $30.
The show’s producers explain it should be money well spent for Michael Jackson fans.
“This is a very special tribute,” Ross says. “There are a lot of other Michael tribute shows out there, but this one keeps the spirit and energy of Michael Jackson.”
“This is a show for Michael fans and Michael music lovers,” Love says.
Ivan Kelley has played young Michael for several years. Now in his early teens, the Valdosta stop may be one of his last shows. Kelley has also had success in non-Jackson venues. He has performed on numerous television shows. He appeared and performed in the Queen Latifah-Dolly Parton movie “Joyful Noise.”
Jefferey Perez plays Live Concert Michael. The producers note that Perez is “one of the best and exciting Michael Jackson tribute artists to take center stage.”
Montray Cherry plays Dancing Michael. “Montray’s passion for Michael, the man, the music and love for children is deeper than anyone could imagine,” according to the producers. “Montray has also opened for numerous celebrity artists including Bobby Brown, Johnny Jill and Ralph Tresvant. Montray has been blessed with the gift of dance like no other.”
Love and Ross say Michael Jackson tribute shows have been popular for many years. Considering Jackson hadn’t toured in the U.S. and rarely anywhere in the last decade of his life, Jackson fans sought the best tribute artists for a surrogate experience. Jackson also reached a point that, when he did tour, he would play only limited engagements in select cities nationwide, making it difficult for many to score tickets.
Though he was planning a major tour with This Is It, Jackson passed away before the first show. And with his death, the only live experience is via tribute shows.
“‘King Michael’ is America’s only chance to see Michael again,” Love says. “Our show is a passionate endeavor to keep the memory of Michael Jackson alive.”
The Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts Presenter Series presents “King Michael.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27.
Where: Mathis City Auditorium, 2300 N. Ashley St.
Ticket: $30 for this show;
Presenter Series season tickets still available.
Reservations, more information: Visit www.turnercenter.org; call (229) 247-2787; or visit the
Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, 527 N. Patterson St.