Branson Up-Close and Personal with the illusionist who pays tribute to Michael Jackson

Michael Knight in his Michael Jackson tribute role.

Michael Knight in his Michael Jackson tribute role.

Legends in Concert, “the world’s greatest live tribute show,” and one of Branson’s most popular shows, is constantly changing its acts to provide the audience with a fresh new entertainment experience. Michael Knight, who is currently performing his tribute to the legendary Michael Jackson during the summer season, describes himself as an illusionist as much as a tribute artist. He recently took time to share a little bit about himself and his career in a “Branson Up Close and Personal” interview.

“Branson-Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) and is intended to provide readers with an unprecedented look at a Branson celebrity or personality. The interview with Michael Knight (MK) was conducted earlier this week for BTC by Gary J. Groman, a 29 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist, and freelance writer, and is presented in a Question and Answer format:

BTC: When were you born?
MK: 1985

BTC: Where?
MK: Woonsocket, RI

BTC: How do you prefer your act to be categorized?
MK: Tribute Artist, but I am also an “Illusionist” because my objective, from costuming, to make up, vocals and dance, is to create the illusion of Michael Jackson.

BTC: Were you singing and dancing before you first became interested in Michael Jackson?
MK: Although I had dabbled with singing and dancing I didn’t really get serious about it until I became interested in Michael Jackson.

BTC: When did you become interested in Michael Jackson?
MK: When I was about 14 years old.

BTC: What was it about him that caught your interest?
MK: When I first saw Michael Jackson perform he just blew me away. I loved what he and his music stood for, peace, love, and unity at a time when a lot of music was gangster rap. It had a positive impact on my life from the way I dressed to the way I lived my life.

BTC: When did you first perform Michael Jackson publically?
MK: I remember it clear as day. It was an impromptu performance of “Billie Jean” at a 7th grade middle-school dance and I was wearing a vintage grey Fedora.

BTC: How did you get to see Michael Jackson perform?
BK: On TV and on videos that I had taped from VH1 and watched over and over. My first performance was based on watching part of the miniseries, “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” and a performance that I memorized.

BTC: How long have you been performing Michael Jackson professionally?
MK: I started doing private parties and stuff like that in 2006, but the demand for Michael was very low at that time and didn’t pick up until after his death in 2009.

BTC: Have you participated in any Michael Jackson Contests?
MK: Yes. In 2009 I won the “Best Michael Jackson Contest” in Providence, RI. As a result, I got hooked up with a manager and my career really got rolling.

BTC: There is an Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. Is there a similar contest for Michael Jackson Tribute Artists?
BK: Not yet, but I am waiting and hoping.

BTC: How long have you been performing Michael Jackson for Legends in Concert?
BK: This is my first gig with Legends in Concert; I just started with them on May 21st. What’s really cool about this was that, in 2002, I was watching the “Michael Jackson Fan Club” and it had clips about E’Casanova, a Michael Jackson Tribute Artist who was performing with Legends in Concert. I said to myself, “Oh my God, I have to join Legends in Concert, wow that is just amazing.” Fast forward about 13 years and here I am!

BTC: Many have commented on your dancing skills and ability to make the Michael Jackson moves. How did you learn them?
MK: When I was 14, I learned how to “Pop and Lock” and “Moon Walk,” from my uncle Bob, who was a great Break Dancer in the 80s. It was after perfecting those basic steps that I started watching Michael and applying them to his moves.

BTC: Outside of videos and the initial help from Uncle Bob, what additional help or training have you had that has prepared you for this role?
MK: I have actually had the opportunity and privilege to meet with and work with people who actually worked with Michael Jackson. Among others, I have worked on his mannerisms with Majestic the Magnificent, a close friend of Michael’s, and had a one month “boot camp” on his choreography and style with Travis Payne and Stacie Walker, who were the two main choreographers for Michael’s “This Is It” video.

BTC: How long does it take to get your makeup on?
MK: It takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

BTC: Is this your first time performing in Branson?
MK: Yes.

BTC: When you found out you were coming to Branson for the first time, what did you expect?
MK: I had no idea of what to expect.

BTC: What is your first memory of Branson?
MK: The diversity of people.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
MK: The audiences and working with this cast. I feel very blessed.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?

MK: Just being a tourist and taking in what Branson has to offer.
BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased), outside of Michael Jackson who would it be and why?

MK: James Brown because his soulfulness was such a huge influence on Michael’s life.

BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
MK: I like to draw and sketch and go to movies.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
MK: I have love for magic and circuses.

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
MK: The time my wig came off while I did a spin. I knew something had happened, but the audience thought it was part of the performance.

BTC: What is your favorite Michael Jackson song and why?
MK: “Billie Jean.” It’s magic in the sense of that’s where you see the “Moonwalk” and the “Glove.”

BTC: What is your favorite non Michael Jackson song and why?
MK: “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars because of its story and up-tempo.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
MK: I really appreciate the support of those coming to the show. It means so much.

BTC: What’s the date of your last current Branson performances?
MK: On my 30th Birthday, September 8.

Jeannie Horton, General Manager of the Legends in Concert in Branson, said that they plan to have Michael Knight back next year and are working out the details, not only of his return, but exciting new additions to his set. Michael said that he is really excited about the changes, and that although he can’t be more specific at this point, he could say, “Think Jackson 5 and the old songs the old fashioned way.”