A thrilling afternoon of music

On August 29 Las Vegas celebrated Michael Jackson’s legacy and what would have been his 51st birthday with a musical tribute at the Palms. Entertainers from different shows in Las Vegas volunteered to perform their renditions of Jackson’s greatest hits and to help raise money to benefit Music Education Programming in Clark County Public Schools. Mid-way through the show, Steve Friess, co-producer and a local freelance journalist, announced that more than $100,000 was raised from ticket proceeds.

Along with commemorating Jackson, this event was a unique opportunity to hear his music performed by a group of highly talented entertainers. Here are some highlights from the show:

Co-producer Erich Bergen, who plays Bob Gaudio in “Jersey Boys” at the Palazzo opened the show with “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Bergen’s set emulated everything from the iconic “The Way You Make Me Feel” music video. He performed the same routine with several male dancers and he even had the female character from the video, played by Holly Madison, dressed in a fitted black dress and black high-heeled boots. Madison, from “Girls Next Door” is currently starring in  “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood.

After Bergen’s outstanding opening he returned to host the rest of the show.

“Wherever you are I hope we do you proud,” said Bergen in honor of Jackson.

Next, Mosaic, an all-male a cappella group performed “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” Not only did they sing the lyrics but they also created all the musical parts for the song with their voices. While watching them, it was easy to forget that there wasn’t a band playing somewhere in the background.

The multi-artist line-up even included a string quartet from Green Valley High School. Clint Holmes, a local headliner who also performed in the show, introduced the quartet. He explained that they are part of a program he is involved in where local entertainers help mentor students who are interested in being performers. The quartet played “Smooth Criminal.” People cheered throughout their all-string rendition of the song.

Australia’s Human Nature, a group that performs a Motown revue at Imperial Palace, came on later in the show.

“We’re going to do some old fashioned songs the old fashioned way,” said group member Michael Tierney.

While wearing matching suits and doing classic Motown choreography they performed their rendition of hits from The Jackson 5.

SIGNATURE, made up of Suleman Mirza and Madhu Singh from the United Kingdom, entertained the crowd with their specialty act, which combines elements of Jackson’s music and Eastern music and dance. Mirza is regarded as one of the top Jackson dance tribute artists in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. He had the audience spellbound with his flawless performance of Jackson’s iconic moves.

There were many outstanding performers, but Elijah Johnson, who plays young Simba in “Disney’s The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay, was the most impressive. At just 11 years old, he has all the moves and charisma of Jackson and demonstrated this in his incredible performance of “Dancing Machine.”

The Las Vegas Mass Choir, who recently performed for President Obama, closed the show. Dressed in black and white and wearing Jackson’s signature silver glove, they sang “Man in the Mirror.” Everyone in the audience was standing. Some people were singing along with their arms in the air while others were hugging each other, moved by Jackson’s powerful lyrics. 

This show is just one reminder of how the King of Pop’s incredible influence on music, fans and entertainers around the world will never be forgotten.