The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience moon walks into Queen CityBy JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor January 03. 2018 12:16PM
If you go...WHAT: Who's Bad - The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience
WHERE: The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
TICKETS: $35.50 or $45.50 with a pre-show meet and greet
INFO: palacetheatre.org; 668-5588
For the past year, singer and dancer James Derek Times III has been channeling the king of pop in “Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience.”
Even for a touring show, that’s a lot of ground to cover. Jackson, who died at 50 in 2009, had spent 40 years in the spotlight, breaking and re-breaking ground as a performance artist as intent on how things looked and felt as how they sounded.
Would Jackson’s knee-lifting leg kicks in “Beat It” have been as cool without the red, multi-zippered ’80s jacket? Would the explosive pulses of “Smooth Criminal” have had the same weight without the gravity-defying lean and retro ’50s gangster-era suits and spats?
It’s hard to imagine that “Dirty Diana” would be as cathartic and scarred without that inexplicable fingertip tape and the white button-down shirt billowing behind him like a survivor’s cape.
And just try to imagine “Billie Jean” without that moon walk, or those high-water pants and the sequined glove.
“As iconic as the glove is, my favorite piece is the opening military jacket worn on the (’90s) Dangerous Tour,” said the Las Vegas-based Times of costumes in “Who’s Bad.” “It demands attention and has an energy of its own that, even without being worn, expresses pure power and strength. I literally feel like superman every time I put it on!”
Times, a Miami, Fla. native, has been a lifelong Jackson fan and spent countless hours studying his hand, foot, finger, head and body angles and movements, according to his bio on whosbadmusic.com.
The tribute to Jackson will take over the Palace Theatre in Manchester in a 7:30 p.m. show Saturday.
Vamsi Tadepalli, the show’s founder, producer and manager, said his introduction to Michael Jackson was at an early age, but it wasn’t until college that he came to fully appreciate the pop icon’s music.
“I grew up in the ’80s, so it was impossible to avoid Michael Jackson. I wasn’t necessarily a super fan of MJ — no posters or anything on the wall growing up, but I do still have the ‘Thriller’ vinyl that my dad bought me when I was 4 years old,” said Tadepalli, who lives in Los Angeles.
“I decided to start ‘Who’s Bad’ in college,” he said. “I was a jazz performance major (a saxophonist) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and wanted to start a band with a horn section. As I was creating a set list of songs, I kept gravitating towards Michael Jackson and thought to myself, ‘Why don’t we just play all MJ? There aren’t any other bands doing that?’”
In transcribing and arranging music for the “Who’s Bad” show, Tadepalli said he “started to realize the level of depth that went into seemingly simple songs. After hundreds of hours of studying his albums and videos, I came to understand why he was named the ‘King of Pop.’ He truly is one of the best entertainers of our lifetime, if not the best.”
“Who’s Bad” had its first show in January 2004, and since then performed across the globe. Tadepalli from 2003 to 2011 also served as saxophonist, keyboardist and choreographer before coming off the road, according to his online bio.
Times is more than a year into the production, but said each show is still a workout.
“Yes, our show is definitely physically demanding! Although, it has gotten easier within the past year that I’ve been with the band — along with the help of on-stage fans. However, after a show I am still pretty well exhausted.”
Of all the signature Jackson moves, Times said he likes to perform the classic moon walk the most.
“Mostly because the reaction is always great from Michael’s fans, and I feel it’s just such a funky, intricate, yet simple (with much practice) move to perform. The most challenging is the footwork tap dancing.”