Spirit of Michael Jackson Show Brings All Ages Together

Sources: Greenwich Time | All Things Michael

Michael Jackson performs during a concert in Budapest, Hungary in 1996.

The late Jackson’s music, dancing and theatrical talents will be celebrated at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Friday, March 4. Laser Spectacular’s show features one of the top Jackson impersonators, Raul Riojas, straight from the Las Vegas stage.

Joined by a five-member dance troupe, Riojas will perform in a ghost-like atmosphere through the use of theatrical scrims and shadow screens, along with other special effects.

Producer Steve Monistere said Riojas is a San Antonio-based entertainer who is primarily a dancer. A fan of Jackson since he was a kid, Riojas has perfected everything from the pop artist’s moonwalk to his spins.

“The Spirit of Michael Jackson” includes videos and MTV clips of Jackson, who died June 25, 2009, at the age of 50. Monistere said it took three months to create the production, which also includes lasers, large-screen video projection, concert lighting and 50,000 watts of sound.

Jackson was just 5 years old when he became the lead singer of The Jackson 5 in 1963. He began his solo career in 1971, and was a global figure in pop culture for more than four decades. He’s known for his dance moves and for hits such as “Billie Jean” and “Man In The Mirror,” as well as for his philanthropy — supporting charities from USA for Africa to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

According to Monistere, the show spans Jackson’s remarkable career and takes audiences on a visual journey that captures the essence of his worldwide concert appearances. Monistere has been involved with Laser Spectacular shows since 1986 (including work on the company’s Pink Floyd production). He shared more about the Jackson tribute in a recent interview.

Q: This 80-minute production has been seen by tens of thousands of people in the last few years. What kind of reaction have you gotten from audiences?

A: The Michael Jackson crowd comes out; they just love it. At one point close to the end we bring people on the stage to do some dancing — we pick two people — and they go crazy. A lot of them already know it. So many people who come already know the choreography, especially for “Thriller.” After the show, the artist and dancers come into the lobby and people line up to take pictures and get their autographs.

Q: Jackson’s famous videos for songs such as “Thriller” and “Black or White” are part of the production, along with some clips from MTV. Is there anything you think many fans may not have seen before, or that is especially unique?

A: I would say the way we use the lasers will be something people have never seen before. Also the dancers do some street dancing. We mix in hip-hop, street dancing moves. It’s more current, so younger kids relate to it a little more.

Q: Does the show reveal choreography from some of the numbers Jackson was rehearsing for his tour before his unfortunate death?

A: No, we do not have that.

Q: Did anyone who is in the show ever work with Jackson? Also, what ages do you recommend this production for? And do you suggest that people who are coming bring ear plugs?

A: No one in the show worked with Michael Jackson, but the dancers have his moves down to perfection. This show is for everyone from 6-year-olds to grandparents. We’ve had grandparents bring their kids and grandchildren. There’s no need for ear plugs. It’s just a very different show. What we do with the lasers, which are choreographed to the music, and the live performers, make it all very special.

Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 E. Ridge. Friday, March 4, 7:30 p.m. $47.50 adults, $37.50 children. 203-438-5795, ridgefieldplayhouse.org

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