ROCK WITH YOU – The King Of Pop Latin Style

The songs of Michael Jackson are performed to a Latin beat in ROCK WITH YOU – The King Of Pop Latin Style, a short but entertaining musical revue now on the main stage of North Hollywood’s historic El Portal Theatre.

Singer-dancer Seaon Stylist-Bristol, the creative force behind ROCK WITH YOU – The King Of Pop Latin Style, makes the wise decision not to attempt an imitation of The King Of Pop, preferring to pay tribute to Michael Jackson’s musical genius by giving it sabor latino, backed by a sensational five-piece band and fifteen enthusiastic young dancers.

Opening with three of The Jackson 5’s early hits (“The Love You Save,” “I Want You Back,” and “ABC”), Stylist-Bristol and company then move on to The Jackson’s “Can You Feel It,” giving all four songs an In The Heights flavor.

ROCK WITH YOU – The King Of Pop Latin Style then slows things down a bit with a sensuous, sultry rendition of solo artist Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Human Nature.” A clip of Dr. Martin Luther King speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial introduces the social conscience Jackson displayed in “The Man In The Mirror” and “Heal The World,” both songs backed by the fourteen young members of The Harmonies Girls Choir.

The 35-minute first act concludes with “They Don’t Care About Us,” performed guerilla/martial arts-style by Stylist-Bristol and his back-up boys.

Musical director Andrew Dorsett’s onstage band show off their terrific talents in Act Two’s jazzy instrumental opening number, the seasonally appropriate “Carol Of The Bells,” a production number which adds a Christmas tree to John York’s stark metallic set design and candy cane canes and Santa hats to the dance troupe’s uncredited costumes.

In Jackson’s 1995 double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I The King Of Pop covered Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”, and Stylist-Bristol cover that cover (with the Harmonies garbed in blue choir robes). Next up is “Liberian Girl,” spotlighting the company’s female dancers gowned like flamenco gypsies, Stylist-Bristol’s choreography featuring some striking red fan moves.

The half-hour second act concludes with “You Rock My World,” from Jackson’s tenth, and final, studio album Invincible (2001), 1991’s “Black Or White,” and a return to the ‘70s with The Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground).”

The relatively brief musical evening concludes, not with an encore (this is that rare concert in which the “last song” really is the last song) but with an optional onstage salsa class, making for a bit of an anticlimax, though there were numerous takers on Opening Night.

The charismatic, multi-talented Stylist-Bristol mixes silky smooth song stylings with energetic dance steps, scarcely breaking a sweat or needing to take a breath. It’s a powerful, exciting performance, and though his backup dancers aren’t ready for Broadway, they execute Stylist-Bristol’s salsa choreography with gusto and vitality. They are Freddy Carrillo, Erick Cavillo, Lili Cooper, Oscar David, Carina Fourmyle, Nikki Gagnon, Pepe Gonzalez, Jessica Hernandez, Hera Kwan, Miguel Medina, Ruben Ochoa, Svetlana Pilyugina, Allison Potter, Belkis Serrat, and Christina Tica. The Harmonies Girls Choir, under the artistic direction of Antonio Espinal, is made up of Juliana Baltandeno, Priscilla Dominguez, Brianna Flores, Evelyn Garcia, Erika Gomez, Alyssa Ramirez, Brisa Ramos, Crisia Regalado, Irma Rios, Jennifer Rios, Daniella Sanchez, Vanessa Vargas, Lauren Vasquez, and Christina Ventura.

Giving ROCK WITH YOU – The King Of Pop Latin Style a professional sheen are band members Oskar Cartaya (bass), Dorsett (keyboards), Frank Fontaine (saxophone, flute), Arturo Solar (trumpet), and Ray Yslas (percussion), each of whom shines in a spotlight solo. Erinn Anova and (StageSceneLA Best Performance By A Featured Actress/Drama winner) Michole Briana White provide first-rate vocal backup. Thumbs up go to lighting director Robert Anderson, technical director Edwin Pleitez, and sound director Stafford Floyd.

If a dozen Michael Jackson songs end up being about half-a-dozen short of a full evening of musical entertainment, ROCK WITH YOU – The King Of Pop Latin Style does succeed as a showcase for its very talented lead performer Seaon Stylist-Bristol, a name we’re sure to be hearing again.

The El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood.
–Steven Stanley
December 26, 2010

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