*Producer and creator of “Invincible: A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson,” Darrin Ross, and MJ long-time choreographer LaValle Smith, Jr., took time to join me to discuss their tribute show to MJ that will be featured at NJPAC, located at 1 Center Street, in Newark, NJ, on Saturday, June 13 at 8:00 PM, and then on Friday, June 19th at 7:00 PM at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY.
Darrin Ross has been in the entertainment industry since 1985. His career started with Jam On Productions. He then did national TV with Dance Party USA and 1 House St. He went on to form IQ Records with a partner in 1992. Darrin established a hip hop dance company entitled the Rennie Harris PureMovement wherein they created a hip hop version of Romeo and Juliet called Rome and Jewel which became the longest touring theater show in the history of theater. Ross was awarded the Bessie Award for Sound Design and Composition for Rome & Jewel. He later worked with dancer Judith Jamison, Robert Battle and Stevie Wonder on a ballet love story and with Judith on her ballet “Reminiscence.” In 2009 Ross created “Champion of the Dance” which eventually led to creating “Invincible.”
“My mother took me to see MJ’s Victory Tour as a kid. I became a life-long fan of MJ’s work,” recalled Ross. “Through “Invincible,” I am recreating the feeling I felt as a teen after watching Michael on stage. I want the audience to feel the same excitement I felt in seeing Michael for the first time. Therefore, I work hard to bring Michael’s songs and dances current so an entire new generation of fans can appreciate Michael’s legacy. We look for the best individuals who we feel fit the RossLive Entertainment brand. Everyone has been positive and enthusiastic, so I have been able to create a great MJ impersonator community,” continued Darrin.
Presently Ross is featuring his show at NJPAC on Saturday, June 13 at 8PM, and then in association with Sun Song Productions, will bring “Invincible” to the Apollo Theater on Friday, June 19th at 7PM. The cast of over 40 persons, including LaVelle Smith, Jr., Michael Jackson‘s personal choreographer of 23 years, is in daily rehearsal attempting to make the show as authentic as possible. “I feel honored to be in the show. I am working with the “Invincible” dancers to recreate the dances I did with Michael and even do some routines Michael hesitated to try. Together Darrin and I have created a lot of new material, “remarked LaVelle who may spill over to the Apollo material not performed at NJPAC.
Putting on a show filled with light-works, videos, dancers, singers, a gospel choir and impersonators, can be an expensive endeavor, therefore Darrin is always looking for people willing to sponsor the show who have creative vision. Promoting the show always means on-line marketing, radio, print, TV and endorsements. “We rely on MJ fans to spread the word. I am hoping to bring on incredible VIP guests in future as the show continues to grow. I try to give total justice to MJ by bringing in the best impersonators I can get. Presently I have sound alike and look alike impersonators Pete Carter and Jeffrey Perez. Joe Jackson saw videos of Invincible, loved it, and may eventually endorse the show.
For NJPAC tickets call the NJPAC box office at 888-466-5722. Call the Apollo B.O. at 212 531-5305. Tickets for both shows can be obtained via Ticketmaster.com. VIP tickets offer purchasers best seats, a meet & greet with cast, photo with impersonators and a commemorative poster. Together with promoters, Sun Song Productions , Darrin is planning a 20-city tour this year throughout September and November. Next year a 50-city tour is planned. For tour schedule see RossLiveent.com; on Facebook via Invincible: A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson; Twitter via @RossLiveMJ and on Instagram @Invincibleshow.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, LaVelle Smith studied at the Performing Arts School in Louisville. Initially planning to be a ballet dancer he went into jazz dancing, then hip hop. He worked with the likes of Jim Carey, Destiny’s Child, Diana Ross, The Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson, Rihanna and Usher, et al. His work with Beyonce on “Crazy in Love,” garnered him an MTV Award, one of 5 he’s earned. “I met Michael when I auditioned for Smooth Criminal,” stated LaVelle Smith, Jr. “I had worked with Janet on Rhythm Nation, so when Michael asked me my ideas, he liked them, and over time I became his choreographer. Michael was fun to work with. He loved to laugh, share stories and tell jokes. But he always got the job done. Invincible brings back memories of working with MJ. I feel every emotion in doing “Invincible” because it keeps Michael alive for me. MJ “is” a loyal and honest person. And, I say “is” because I still think of Michael as alive, though in spirit,” claimed the choreographer. “Michael Jackson was always about the heart. I seek to instill that heart in the young “Invincible” dancers I choreograph. I know if Mike were still here, he would say these dancers are doing it right.”
Journalist and radio host, Deardra Shuler, has a background in publishing, theatre, concert promotion, producing and was the former PR chairman of FESPACO, an African film festival in Burkino Faso. She reviews books, plays, theater and movies. Her short story was published by Penquin Books in Aurielle Ford’s book “Mystical Souvenirs.” Deardra has her own blog under Writblog and writes for several African American publications in New York. Her show Topically Yours is on the Blakeradio Network, Rainbow Soul. She also produces and facilitates other radio programs that she has brought to the BlakeRadio network.