NEW BRITAIN - The King of Pop will return to Trinity-on-Main Saturday in the form of tribute artist Joby Rogers, who will be performing all of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits.
Rogers, a New Britain native, has been a Jackson impersonator for 35 years and is internationally recognized. This will be his seventh or eighth time performing at the local venue, he said.
“It’s kind of my hometown show,” Rogers said.
Theater Manager Joe Marturano said that, as of Wednesday afternoon, the show was already half sold out.
“We’re looking at a sold-out show, potentially,” Marturano said. “It’s a great show to see.”
Rogers said he was personally chosen by the King of Pop as his No. 1 tribute artist after Jackson reviewed 116 other impersonators.
“It was a validation that I was doing the right thing,” Rogers said.
He is also the only Michael Jackson tribute artist to make it onto the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, having done so in December 1999.
Rogers recognizes that impersonating the pop star comes with some baggage that includes accusations against Jackson of child sex abuse, along with the scandal that surrounded Jackson’s death.
Jackson died in 2009 of cardiac arrest as a result of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication during rehearsals for what the pop icon called his last concert tour, dubbed “This Is It.” His death was ruled a homicide and his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was charged and convicted of manslaughter in the superstar’s death.
Even though he had been performing as a Jackson impersonator before Jackson’s death, Rogers said, he wanted to continue to pay homage to his idol.
“I’m committed to keeping his spirit and music alive,” said Rogers. “Michael Jackson has a talent that I don’t think we’ll see again.”
In fact, Rogers points to Jackson’s continued popularity, noting that last Saturday over 400 people came to watch him perform on the Meriden Green.
“My show is a chance for his music to get to people who have never seen him live,” he said.
“We do everything everyone is familiar with,” Rogers added, including hits such as “Thriller,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.”
Rogers also credited his dancers and choreographer for the show’s success. The choreography is right from the music videos and also features some new numbers.
“They’re all professional instructors,” he said of the dancers.
Rogers said that in his 35 years performing as a Jackson tribute artist, “the show now is probably at the best it’s ever been.”
“It’s an impactful show,” he added. “I convert a lot of people to Michael Jackson.”
Rogers was born and raised in New Britain, where he lived until he was 13 years old. He was a Jackson fan from the very beginning, when Michael was still in the Jackson 5, he said.
In the 1980s, while still in his teens, Rogers started impersonating the iconic pop star. He won first place in a Michael Jackson Dance/Look-alike Contest at Weaver High School in Hartford and took home a $1,000 cash prize. He then got hired to impersonate Jackson at birthday parties.
After Rogers decided to be an entertainer, he snagged a gig as an MJ tribute artist at Café Society, an off-Broadway club in New York City.
“That is where I honed my talent,” he said, and, he added, where he learned how to do makeup.
“Working in New York City broadened my horizons,” Rogers said.
Throughout the ‘80s, Rogers attended many Jackson concerts. In 1988, during the ‘Bad’ Tour, Rogers finally got to meet his idol.
From there, his fame grew.
Rogers has appeared on several national TV networks and talk shows, including: MTV, VH1, NBC, CBS, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” E!, “Jenny Jones,” “Ricki Lake” and Comedy Central, and a variety of local TV stations. Rogers was also the star of the FilmMode Entertainment movie “Mirroring Michael Jackson” in 2018.
He has performed on tour nationally and internationally.
“At this point I’ve been to 13 or 14 countries,” Rogers said, and four or five continents. “I’ve had a chance to see the world.”
In December 2009, just a few short months after Jackson’s death, Rogers took the stage at the Mohegan Sun Arena for what he said on his website was “his greatest concert to date.” The show was sold out.
Rogers has no intention of stopping.
“I think the saying goes, ‘Quit show business? Yeah right,’” he said. “As long as it’s still fun and something to look forward to, I will do it.”
In January, HBO released “Leaving Neverland,” a documentary detailing the sexual assault allegations against Jackson.
The movie, nominated for five Emmys, focuses on the stories of two accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege that Jackson abused them while they were children.
Rogers said HBO contacted him for input on the documentary and asked him how the allegations have impacted the tribute industry.
Tabloid coverage, rumors, accusations of child sex abuse and bizarre behavior and eventually criminal charges swirled around the pop star for years. The first accusation came in 1993, when he was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old. The case was settled for $15 million. In 1996, Jackson settled another sexual assault case for $2 million.
In 2005, following the 2003 documentary “Living with Michael Jackson,” the pop star faced several criminal charges of child molestation against another young boy. Jackson was later acquitted of all charges.
When asked if there have been any protests at any of his shows, Rogers replied, “People who come to my shows want to be there.”
Marturano also didn’t think there’d be any protests at the show this Saturday.
“I wouldn’t anticipate any issues from that,” he said.
Rogers, as are some others, is skeptical about the claims in the documentary.
“These were two gentlemen who testified on Michael Jackson’s behalf during a trial that nothing happened,” he said, referring to the 2005 sex abuse trial.
In 2013, Robson filed a lawsuit against Jackson, saying he did abuse him as a child. The following year, Safechuck did the same thing.
“I think it’s about money and nothing else,” Rogers said.
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at email@example.com.