It takes more than just good looks and a pair of footloose feet to be the next whiz-kid dancer imitating Michael Jackson.
Now into his 28th year as a M.J. impersonator—and his second with the global production he’s touring—Kenny Wizz says he’s run marathons, spent five years training as a makeup artist, and a full year carefully assembling his production strategy, all in the name of producing the best imitation possible.
“A lot of people come in with low expectations. They don’t want to believe there is anything as entertaining as Michael Jackson himself. They tell me, I really didn’t want to come because there’s only one Michael,” he said. “I understand that. This is entertainment. I don’t want to be Michael Jackson.”
The Wizz, as he prefers to be called, was a phenom street performer who grew up breakdancing on the streets of Los Angeles and absorbing comment after comment on how much he resembled the iconic picture of then rising star Michael Jackson on the cover of the Thriller album.
Wizz was already an art student and an distance runner, lean like Michael Jackson, with the skills to develop as a makeup artist capable of changing his look along with Jackson’s many faces.
And so he did, eventually touring the world continuously, hitting hotspots from New Zealand to Dubai.
Along the way he learned a thing or two about performing as someone else and providing the kind of experience someone who watches an impersonator wants to enjoy.
“You let yourself go emotionally and let yourself get into it,” he said in interview from the road earlier this week.
You also watch copious amounts of M.J. videos, study his attire—red leather jacket for Thriller, black leather jacket for Billie Jean—and in some cases, have surgery.
Many a producer over the years has made the offer, but Wizz says he does not have any desire to actually look like the artist.
“People think I wake up like that, with curls hanging down my face, but if you saw me on the street you would have no idea it’s me,” he said.
This doesn’t mean he doesn’t suffer from some of Jackson’s afflictions. Travelling on a relentless schedule that sees him changing timezones at a rate nobody could recover from, he too finds the 3 a.m. rehearsal time occasionally makes sense, though Jackson was derided for the effort when he did it.
The result of such dedication speaks for itself when Wizz takes the stage. The 20-song, two hour concert, mixes up the hits, ensuring the show ends on a high note, not a reminder of the artist’s ultimate demise.
Michael Jackson HIStory combines a light show and production value gleaned from the 11 years Wizz spent performing in Las Vegas. And the show itself draws fans as young as five years old, fitting for tribute to a member of the Jackson 5.
In his illustrious career, Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and made the Songwriters Hall of Fame, not to mention earning 13 Grammy Awards and 26 American Music Awards, including Artist of the Century.
One of eight Jackson siblings, Jackson’s career began in The Jackson 5 and he took his act solo in 1971, filling stadiums as the biggest artist in the world by the early ’80s.
Michael Jackson HIStory comes to the Kelowna Community Theatre on April 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $54.90.