ST. GEORGE — Something magical is happening at St. George Musical Theater right now. With a dynamic conflict between two larger-than-life characters at its heart, songs that stick in the head and toe-tapping music, their show “Annie Get Your Gun” is a musical theater staple.
But it has something else, too. You feel it within the opening moments of the show, as the cast sings and dances their way through Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Choreographed by Cedar City resident Michael “Mic” Thompson, the dance – like the music – commands your attention.
“I have no technical training,” Thompson told St. George News. “It’s all intuitive. I’m trying to use my God-given talent to bring out the light.”
It’s hard to achieve such lofty, abstract goals, but Thompson faces the challenge. With musicals, audiences are usually separated from the performers by the orchestra and a proscenium. From a distance, attendees can see the majestic movements of big dance numbers, but they can’t see the sweat glistening on the performers’ brows or feel the air being moved as the dancers kick up their heels and twirl through the space.
However, with the St. George Musical Theater production of “Annie Get Your Gun,” which runs select dates through May 29, that’s exactly what theatergoers can expect.
If you sit in the floor seats of the St. George Opera House, you feel the floor shake as the performers stomp. You can feel your chest vibrate as their voices coalesce into harmony. And you can feel their energies being channeled into a singular goal. That is, every thought, breath and movement is in service to telling the story.
“Dancers typically want good music, you know?” Thompson said. “But in musical theater, you’ve got to tell the story. Your dances have to move the story along.”
Thompson paused for a moment to consider his thoughts. He said he struggles at times to find the right words to express how he feels. Then he comes up with an example to illustrate dance carrying the story.
“I see someone walking,” he said, getting to his feet. Then he launches into a series of movements that transform walking into a little piece of choreography.
From dancing in the shadows to making new opportunities
Though Thompson has danced in high profile pictures like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Enchanted” and the television show “Will and Grace,” he said he’s most proud of the time he spent working with former “King of Pop” Michael Jackson.
“I was his shadow for a few years,” Thompson said. “That means that I was the dancer directly behind him in his shows and videos.”
Of all the dancers Jackson could have chosen, Thompson, whose career began in Las Vegas, was picked because he was said to be “the funkiest white guy around.”
“It’s all about style, stamina and staccato,” Thompson said. “You’ve got to be able to keep up with Michael, and that wasn’t easy. He’d jump off from stuff we rehearsed to do his own thing.”
Though Jackson came under increasing scrutiny toward the end of his life, Thompson said the late performer left an indelible mark on his life and career.
“You could always feel Michael’s energy,” he said. “It was positive, quiet, sincere. He wanted to bring light into our lives. I vibed off of that.”
When Thompson moved to Cedar City in August 2020, he said he wasn’t sure how he would continue to pursue his passions. He said he wants to keep dancing and keep choreographing, but his former collaborators at Disney haven’t been calling as often as they once did. So when the opportunity to choreograph “Annie Get Your Gun” for St. George Musical Theater presented itself, Thompson took it.
“I just feel blessed to get new opportunities,” he said. “I’ll keep doing this even if I’m not getting paid. This is my mission.”
Thompson went silent.
He’d given the broad strokes of his career, from working with Debbie Allen to Debbie Gibson, The Pointer Sisters to Diana Ross, Vegas-style funky jazz to Michael Jackson’s shadow. Considering this lengthy creative resume, he attributed his success to the phrase, “Fake it till you make it.”
And when asked if he believed he had made it, he went silent again.
“When I talk, there’s questions,” he said. “When I dance, there are no questions.”
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