King Michael: A Glorious Tribute to the King of Pop
June 28 at 7:30
615 Louisiana St
Like many people his age, 35-year-old Michael Firestone grew up imitating Michael Jackson’s dance moves in front of the television. Unlike the rest of us, Firestone became a professional Michael Jackson impersonator and even got a dance critique from the King of Pop himself.
“I was talking to Michael Jackson about a songwriting competition, and I shared some of my impersonator performance videos with him,” Firestone told me. “He said I kicked my leg the wrong direction during ‘Billie Jean.’ That’s what happens when you learn the moves in reverse on TV.”
Firestone is one of a trio of Michael Jackson impersonators starring in the traveling stage show King Michael: A Glorious Tribute to the King of Pop, presented by Brilliant Lectures on June 28 at Jones Hall. The other two impersonators, Brandon "Michael" Jones and 11-year-old Jacquez Swanigan, portray MJ at other stages of his career. The show also features the King Michael Band, Grammy Award–winning back-up singers, Las Vegas dancers, and “urban acrobats.” King Michael arrives in Houston shortly after the fifth anniversary of Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009.
Firestone plays the Jackson of the Bad and Dangerous era, but also performs songs from earlier albums. “Billie Jean,” and “Beat It” are always crowd-pleasers, and Firestone said his signature song is “Human Nature.” The impersonator patterns his makeup and costumes after an amalgam of Jackson’s looks.
“My goal isn’t to look exactly like Michael from an exact time, but I take inspiration from about a 10-year period,” he said. “My face is ’92-’93, my lips are ’97, eyes are ’89, and my hair is from about ’92,” he said. His makeup alone takes at least two hours to apply.
Like Jackson, Firestone is a perfectionist. “I’ve been doing this for years, but I’m still not totally happy with my moonwalk,” he said. “I even lost my shoe while moonwalking recently. Nobody will ever look exactly like Michael, or ever perform near as well as he did, but it’s about the experience, and remembering how incredible he was.”
In May, Epic Records released Xscape, a compilation of Jackson’s previously unreleased recordings. “Love Never Felt So Good,” a duet with Justin Timberlake, was downloaded 60,000 times in two days.
Firestone said he hopes the last five years have helped people look past the scandals surrounding Jackson’s life and death and remember MJ’s legacy.
“People don’t know what they have until it’s gone, and even though Michael hadn’t produced many hits in his last 10 or 12 years, an hour after he died, people immediately began to miss him,” Firestone said. “I miss him. I still get goosebumps when I listen to his music. You can hear his influence on almost every pop song on the radio, but I think “Billie Jean“ still blows most of today’s pop music out of the water.”