Michael Wheatley has paid his dues. He has spent over three decades in the entertainment business performing in various musical tribute shows, suburban funk bands and, at times, even dancing in male burlesque shows.
Throughout all of these experiences, there has been one constant in Wheatley’s life – the music of Prince. He first heard when he was just a young schoolboy, being drawn to Little Red Corvette on the radio because the lyrics seemingly centred on exotic cars and, in his naive initial interpretation, references to ancient history in its mention of Trojans and horses, the things his pre-adolescent interests focused most upon at that time.
Forever In My Life: A Tribute To Prince details Wheatley’s subsequent lifelong devotion to His Purpleness and deftly ties specific songs from the Paisley Park canon to the key moments that have occurred throughout this Australian fan’s life.
Whilst it could be said that Wheatley has not had the most remarkable of lives, nevertheless his experiences provide the sort of everyday stories most people would recognise from within the narrative of their own journeys, making this show relatable to most in the audience.
He does weave the songs cleverly into the tapestry of his life very effectively. For example, Darling Nikki heralds his sudden onset of puberty, Strange Relationship provides the editorial comment on his durable long term marriage, and ultimately, as he is reflecting on Prince’s untimely death in April 2016, he offers up a poignant rendition of the mournful ballad, Sometimes It Snow In April.
The songs are sung with passion integrity, and cover most of Prince’s most productive hit making years. Wheatley possesses a good voice, and his years of imitating the superstar have refined his accentual flourishes and Prince’s other vocal idiosyncrasies so that you could almost imagine it was Mr. P.R. Nelson sitting at the keyboard himself.
With a full house in to see the performance, the venue proved a little claustrophobic, but that did not detract from the quality of the performance.
Prince fans will certainly enjoy this show, as will those who admire a well structured musical performance delivered with love and humility.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Forever In My Life – A Tribute To Prince is playing in The Loft at The A Club, 109-111 Waymouth Street, Adelaide at 6:15pm on Tuesday 5 & 12 March. Get tickets for these shows HERE.