Published: July 12, 2013
You've missed your chance of seeing Michael Jackson live in concert by about four years.
The pop singing icon, whom Guinness World Records deemed the most successful entertainer of all time, died June 25, 2009. When longtime Jackson impersonator Kenny Wizz, star of the "Michael Jackson HIStory II Show," a touring tribute show, heard the news, he immediately reacted.
"I retired my act right away on the spot, just out of respect," Wizz said. I figured the same thing would happen as did with Elvis. Everybody would come out and make stuff just to make a dollar. I didn't want any part of that."
But four months later, after receiving multiple requests to get back on stage, he came out of retirement.
"I felt like people wanted a way to heal," he said. "We'll always have videos, but people wanted to see something in front of them. Even now, four years later, I still have people telling me 'Thank you for keeping the legacy alive.' It dawned on me how much effect the act has had on people around the world."
Wizz's tribute show will be at the Pikes Peak Center on Thursday.
It's fashioned as a true concert experience, Wizz says, with a six-piece band, six dancers and close to 1,000 lighting cues. The 90-minute show covers hits from the early years of the Jackson 5 through Jackson's later years.
"It's not a theater show," Wizz says. "We wanted to give it to fans who never had an opportunity to see Michael Jackson in concert."
The tribute show started in 1984, which makes next year Wizz's 30th anniversary of playing Jackson. After that, he's hanging up the white glove to pursue acting and other show business opportunities.
"Kenny belted out the demanding falsetto tunes continually with great passion and conviction," wrote Jessica Cornish, a reviewer for Theatre Press in Melbourne, Australia. "After impersonating MJ for over 28 years, he clearly convinces the audience who were besotted by him throughout the entire performance."
Jackson's 1982 album "Thriller" was gaining steam as a teenage Wizz and his buddies spent their weekends breakdancing in LA.'s Westwood neighborhood.
"I resembled him on the cover of the 'Thriller' album," he said. "He had short, curly hair. People said 'you resembled Michael Jackson, and you should dance like him.'"
He bowed to the pressure and agreed to dance as Jackson at a local dance studio. An agent in the audience spotted him and doors started to open.
Wizz became a student of Jackson. Without access to Youtube videos, he only had still photos to study the legend and how he moved. He never met the entertainer, though he did see him in concert.
"I used to practice singing in the living room in a small space," Wizz said. "I had one album, a live concert album from the Jacksons, and I would play that and practice to that, so it gave me a live feel of what he may have been doing. I would buy magazines and keep poses of him dancing, still photos. I would try to think about the movement he made right before and right after that pose."
He sewed all his own costumes and spent five years learning to apply makeup. Today it takes him two hours to get ready for a performance. And as far as his remarkable similarity to Jackson? He says he's never had a lick of plastic surgery.
"There's a lot of glue and tape and pins that go into what I do."
Wizz did appearances as Jackson all over L.A. and was eventually offered his own show in Atlantic City, where he stayed for eight years. From there it was on to Las Vegas, where he spent 11 years doing two shows a night, six days a week, and then he took it on the road.
"I've done over 20,000 shows, and all that time put a lot of mileage on the body," Wizz said. "I still enjoy it and could do it six or seven more years, but I don't want to take my body through that."
Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.
"michael jackson history ii show"
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets: $49-$69; 520-7469, tickets west.com