While Michael’s life was filled with triumphs and controversies, his music stands on its own. Michael continues to reign as king, as his music set sales records after his death in 2009, making him the best-selling artist in the United States that year.
A new show by the Norfolk children’s theater, The Hurrah Players, presents the superstar’s music and moves with ‘A Tribute to Michael Jackson,’ a song and dance revue opening Friday.
Eric ‘EJ’ Jones, aged twenty-two, of Chesapeake, is the show’s creator, choreographer and star. Performing as Michael was natural for the singer and dancer who grew up onstage with The Hurrah Players.
“I’ve loved Michael Jackson since the first time I heard him when I was six years old,” he said. “He’s definitely the biggest influence on how I perform.”
As a child, Jones heard his parents playing Michael’s records. Jones emulated Michael’s moves, perfected his moonwalk, practiced the vocal style and integrated it all into his own persona as an actor, singer and dancer. Jones began formulating the show that would become ‘A Tribute to Michael Jackson,’ the day before his idol’s death. After Michael died, the public was hungry for all things Michael, but Jones was busy majoring in chemistry at Old Dominion University. He didn’t know whether he’d ever get the opportunity to take his show to the stage, but then he had a conversation with Hugh Copeland, The Hurrah Players’ artistic director.
“He is without a doubt a true talent,” Copeland said of Jones. “I knew he could pull it off, but I didn’t know he’d be able to completely channel Michael Jackson onstage the way he does. He is Michael Jackson. Jones’ vision of Michael is a celebration of the music.”
Copeland said, “We make sure we’re dealing with the music, and the show has been very well received. Reaction has been really positive, and it’s cross-generational.”
The show features Jones in the role of Michael, and twenty-one other young singers and dancers. Jones selected all the songs and included Jackson 5 favorites such as ‘ABC,’ hits from the ‘Thriller,’ era and newer material. He also incorporated some of Michael’s poetry, which he set to music and dance. Much of the choreography comes straight from Michael’s videos. The rest relies on Jones’ knowledge of the star.
“I learned as I went,” Jones said of producing the show. “I found myself overwhelmed at first because there’s just a mass amount of work I wasn’t even aware of; costumes, staging, everything.”
Based on advance ticket sales, the work is paying off. Copeland said he added two shows to accommodate the fans. While audiences will likely sing along to the hits, Jones said he will enjoy the show more than anyone.
“Michael Jackson is my idol,” he said. “To be able to create this show and choreograph it and perform as MJ is a dream come true.”