A Masterful Mimic of Michael.
by Louw Mulder
It’s been 20 years since we, as the matric class of 1996, took our final walk across the stage to the music of Michael Jackson’s They don’t care about us. I also remember the event where I made out to my first varsity crush on the song Can you feel it, also by Michael Jackson as part of the Jacksons. So much more memories were created which are somehow linked to one or the other Michael Jackson song, and sitting in the audience of Forever Jackson during the opening performance in the Joburg theatre, I experienced more than a show… It was a trip down my own memory lane, creating an electric and vibrant nostalgia of what we can surely call the good old days.
But way back then, I became a fan of Michael Jackson when lyrics of his famous song Man in the Mirror really sank in, and became one of my life mottos. Most songs somehow have that single line of truthfulness which just sticks for many years to come. When thinking of the late Michael Jackson, I always think of these lyrics: ”If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change”!
As is the case with most powerful and successful celebrities during the late 20th century, there were scandals, controversy, and titbits of media sensation, exposing these stars to mass destruction of their reputation and image. However, it was their music that stood the test of time, that proved the real success of their work. With Michael Jackson, there was no exception to this rule! In Forever Jackson, the most impressive imitation and tribute show of Jackson so far in all my years of covering theatre productions, the focus is on the legend and his music, with all the negative tabloid gossip forgotten.
To recreate the onstage persona of icons like Michael Jackson, will never be 100% doable, but the UK’s number one impersonator Robin Parsons, comes as close as it gets. In an attempt to mirror Michael Jackson, you must consider the ultimate threesome of tailored MJ trademarks; the voice, the look, and the moves. Parsons’ impersonation of the King of Pop was spot on, and after seeing a few Michael Jackson doubles, this imitation will be hard to… Beat It. For Michael Jackson’s 45th birthday celebrations, Parsons had the privilege of performing as MJ, in front the real McCoy. With the nod of approval from the man himself, it was confirmation that Parsons had ticked all three boxes.
When you are a daydreamer like me, and you allow your own imagination to fill in the small gaps, you can experience Forever Jackson, as if it was the Moonwalker himself on stage. It takes Parsons almost three hours to perfect his make-up, resembling Michael Jackson’s face with so much detail – the high cheekbones, and somewhat enlarged nostrils.
The silhouettes and postures, familiar and own to Michael Jackson, were as if Parsons had been taught by Michael Jackson himself. The hard work really paid off considering that Parsons spent 17 years studying Michael Jackson in meticulous detail to produce the closest complete likeness currently performing today. The singing was imitated astoundingly, with even the distinctive high register vibrato sounds adding to the disbelief that Michael Jackson has actually passed. The perfected moonwalk completed this threesome.
Parsons is accompanied on stage by four dancers from the UK’s Hip Hop Pop group, assuring that the stage experience is being kept exciting. Even though the production is audibly enhanced by epic-sounding tracks, there is a live guitarist, bassist and drummer on stage. I want to compliment respectively, Shane Lee, Alex Preston and Don Bannister for their individual roles in this production. It is one thing to play your instruments in order to create the perfect sounds, but along with this, comes the energy necessary to compliment the main act, and in this show it was in abundance.
The production features famous, and some not so famous hits throughout the life of Michael Jackson, to the likes of Dirty Diana, I want you back, Beat It, Don’t stop till you get enough, to name but a few. The tracks that stood out for me were Man in the Mirror, Billie Jean, Black or White, Thriller, and the best of the night, Earth Song.
It was in the end a well-produced production, with the wildest expectations met. Well done to Richard Wood, the production manager and choreographer Jenny Bater-Sinclair, who rolled this concert out from the creative seats. I have to mention the superb infrastructure and setup of the Joburg Theatre, whose lighting and sound capabilities contributed to the wowness of creating a full pop concert vibe on their stage.
If I am asked whether Forever Jackson is worth seeing, it’s a definite yes. It has all the elements of reliving the late Michael Jackson’s career, in one electrifying, intimate environment.
The message though, is as if it was intentionally appropriate and applicable for today in South Africa: “Heal the world. Make it a better place. It don’t matter if you’re black or white, if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.”
Forever Jackson is on the Mandela stage at Joburg Theatre, and will run until 19 June.