By BILLY DIXON
After many years on the road with American Kenny Wizz as the venerable star, Showtime Australia’s Michael Jackson HIStory Show is on the verge of re-launching down under. To mark the King of Pop’s return from the dead, MINT interviewed the tribute show’s new star, a South African by the name of Dantanio.
For someone walking in the shoes of perhaps the world’s greatest celebrity, he’s a modest chap with a clear appreciation of opportunity – an unexpected breath of fresh air in an entertainment industry that’s often aimed at the lowest common denominator.
MINT: I understand you’ve released quite a bit of your own musical work – what was it that drew you back to Michael Jackson’s art as opposed to continuing your solo journey?
DANTANIO: As a performer I always felt incomplete with my total expression of my abilities to perform as Michael Jackson. My family and friends always rooted for me to share the gift on a greater scale. So it’s fulfilling a calling.
MINT: Michael Jackson’s live performance was often about the spectacle, the dancing and entertainment as much as it was about the music – you’ve obviously got the vocal skills but do you ever lip-synch so you can focus purely on dancing?
DANTANIO: I do extensive physical practice to build my stamina and performance ability. I do my best to perform all my vocals live. I think it’s important not to cheat and to give yourself honestly to the audience.
MINT: In his heyday he was a global phenomenon – having travelled the world extensively, do you find any particular crowds or communities with a particularly strong affinity for Jackson’s (and thus your) work?
DANTANIO: Yes, I do. The attention to detail is important to me and I double check everything. Some fans are really passionate about the big stuff while others focus on the little details. It’s always interesting to learn from the fans.
MINT: American Kenny Wizz did the show for its first few years – how did you come to take over the role? Do you see yourself as having “big shoes to fill” or is it a different experience this time round?
DANTANIO: I was auditioned and scouted by Showtime’s director, Mr. Johnny van Grinsven. I think we all have uniqueness in us. I had to step into becoming the best Michael Jackson I can be. I can only say that I approached the show with my own emotional and philosophical content.
MINT: I read that your launch shows in South Africa were Thriller-themed – is there a particular aspect of Jackson’s work you’re focusing on this time around?
DANTANIO: Again, I double check everything. I draw a lot of inspiration from the early years but I always consider and view all areas as much as I can. It’s an encyclopaedia. Everything matters.
MINT: There are probably tens of thousands of MJ impersonators out there in the world – what was it that set you apart in the eyes of Showtime?
DANTANIO: I would have Showtime answer this one as it may seem boastful or over confident if I do. At a guess I would say character, humanity and most important – the very first answer I gave my director was “I’m here to learn and grow along with this spectacular team.”
MINT: Finally, are there any particular aspects of the show you want to draw attention to, or anything specific you’d like to mention for the article?
DANTANIO: I fight back the tears every night we do She’s Out of My Life. Teamwork is key for us as a musical family. What we do on stage is truly from our hearts. It humbles me to star in such a world production. I hope the fans remember the magic and wonder of Michael Jackson with every performance we give!
See Dantanio in the flesh 7 July at the Frankston Arts Centre – more than just quality reminiscence of the days when Jackson ruled the roost, he’ll have you believing the legend lives on.