I just got home from a date with myself to see the Michael Jackson movie, 'This Is It'. It was, in a word, amazing. Michael & Max are both asleep, but I can't sleep yet- I'm still jittery and 'electrified'.
I grew up listening to MJ music and have many happy memories of it. My Mom would often have church-related meetings on Wednesday nights, so it would be Dad and the four of us kids at home. We had the Thriller LP and Dad would blast it at ridonkulous decibels and we'd dance around. The fun of it was that we were 'being bad' by (literally) shaking the house! (And on a school night?! What?!) I remember TONS of laughter. Our favorites were 'Beat It' and 'Thriller' and to this day, I smile whenever I hear them. Our dance parties would often end with Mom driving into the driveway, the stereo being turned off and us running to our rooms and into bed as if nothing out of the ordinary had been going on. But she knew. Oh yes, she knew. So did the neighbors. *tehee*
I'd planned to see the movie with our friend Amanda, but couldn't get ahold of her, so I went by myself. (Don't worry Amanda, I will TOTALLY go again with you! For real!) It was a late night showing and there were 12 people in the theatre including myself. The thing that amazed me the most was that NO ONE moved at all during the whole movie. I completely rocked out the whole time! I guess it's the musician in me- it was impossible to stay still. I was hooked (line and sinker!) within minutes. This was definitely a movie to be seen in Dolby Surround Sound.
Coming from a theatre background, it was like watching an extreme behind the scenes tech rehearsal and it really made me miss my (currently on hiatus) career, but inspired me to get back to it eventually once Max is older. I'm a huge fan of modern rock musical theatre and watching the movie reminded me of one of the most exciting shows I've ever conducted- The Who's Tommy- at a theatre in Boston. We (the six piece rock band) were placed on platforms about 8 or 9 feet in the air onstage and it was the closest thing to a 'rock star moment' I'll ever have. (see pic- I was on the right hand platform with my drummer & bassist) The show starred Jake Simpson (a two time Star Search winner) as Tommy and whoa, could he wail. (He was also an incredibly sweet and humble human being. Bonus.) It was like playing a rock concert every night for a month. THRILLING.
But I digress. One of the things that impressed me most was that it was very obvious that MJ was actually singing during the rehearsals. He did 'mark' to save his voice now and then, but there was none of the tracked lip synching stuff that goes on with so many pop artists these days. He also marked some of the dances, but it was brilliant even when he was doing so. Seeing him marking next to his posse of back-up dancers (who were going full-out) was incredible- he made it look so easy and flawless, even when it wasn't at performance level.
He was quite obviously a perfectionist and though not bossily, coached everyone from his musicians to dancers. One of my favorite 'scenes' was his coaching of his musical director on the intro of 'The Way You Make Me Feel'. He kept telling him to 'lay back' into the beat. It reminded me of an almost identical coaching I received from my mentor in college almost 10 years ago. "Lay back, Ange! Just LAY BACK. Easy!" (Love you, Hoff!) I also thought it was tres cool that he made it very clear to his MD that he wanted everything to sound exactly like the recordings. It's so easy to stray and be all 'artistic', but on songs as iconic as these, heck yeah! As an audience member, I wanted to hear exactly what I've been hearing in my head all these years. (On a side note: he had a kickass female electric guitarist named Orianthi in his band. ROCK, GIRL POWER!)
So in closing, I thought it was a fantastic documentary and would strongly recommend running (not walking!) to see it before it closes in theatres next week. Seeing the footage of 'Smooth Criminal', 'Beat It' and 'Thriller' was worth the price of admission alone, but you get SO much more. It's such a shame that MJ is no longer with us and was unable to present such an incredible work to the masses, but thank goodness this footage exists. It's really special.
P.S. Happy Halloween! Although we're not trick-or-treating, we're dressing Max up as Coach Tanaka (the football coach) from 'Glee'.