Bringing the magic of George Michael back to life

by | Nov 27, 2023 | 0 comments

  • Craig Winberry, who plays the title role in The Life and Music of George Michael
The show is called The Life and Music of George Michael. How much is life and how much is the music?

Well, this is a concert-style show that is a tribute to George Michael. We try to cover as much of his fantastic music in a first act and a second act. There are a couple of parts that are some information about George, but for the most part, you’re going to be listening to that awesome catalog of his. There’ll be Wham hits, and then we’ll have a lot of selections from his solo career.

What was your life before this tour?

I’ve lived in New York City the past 10 years, and prior to that I’m originally from Arkansas and came to the city and started finding communities and friends of people that enjoy music, pop music, enjoy eighties, nineties music. You surround yourself with other artists that have the same kind of interest as you. I’ve done off-Broadway. I wrote a cabaret, did that at 54 Below. Right now, this past year I’ve got into music producing and writing. A buddy of mine, Nolan Doran, who is a Broadway producer, we started a group called BaseSuite, and so we’re writing music for an audience that is accepting of everybody.

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Why should younger people, maybe people in their teens or twenties, come to this show?

I’m so glad you asked that. We did this tour in 2022. We went on hiatus last year, and then we’re back out in 2024. And I kept seeing a recurring theme. We did Los Angeles and Denver and Dallas, and we had a show outside of Chicago. And there was a person with their daughters or their sons in their teens to twenties, up dancing and having a good time. George’s legacy is transcending his generation.

In your own words, who was George Michael?

Oh, wow. Trailblazer, authentic. He was funny. Before we went out in ’22, I watched any clip I could find of his. I was just so like, “Hey, here’s this guy. Let’s go back and look at it through a different lens, and not necessarily as a fan.” But as I’m like, “Oh, oh my gosh, I have this huge legacy.” I want to make sure that when the fans show up, they’re getting exactly that nostalgia, the excitement. I think we’re in that era now that stuff that is eighties and nineties dominant is really resonating with Gen Z and the next generation.

At the end of the show, are your tired from all that dancing?

There’s lots of sweat and it’s happy sweat, it’s good. The way the show finale builds, the audience is never seated. As soon as we start the finale, they’re up on the seats. We highly encourage that. That’s the essence of George is there are the tender moments. You’re also going to be up and shaking it and having a good time.

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Why should we Choose Life (referring to the famous t-shirt)?

What’s the alternative? Oh, wow, that’s a deep question. Yeah, choose life because you matter. You deserve to have feelings and you deserve to be able to express yourself. Like you said, dancing in the aisles, have a good time, that’s why you choose life.

George Michael had some troubles in his life, not some good times. Does the show go into that, or is this really more of a celebration?

It’s a tribute celebration. He shared his life through his music. I sing Jesus to a Child in the second act. If you are familiar with the backstory of that song (edit: a tribute to his late lover Anselmo Feleppa who died from AIDS), the producers, and they were in touch with the estate as well, they have a way that they want to share his legacy. The best way to do that is through the music. And those lyrics are his story and they’re his life. Choose life, you’re not alone, you deserve to be seen and you have feelings and they matter.

There’s the game called Whamageddon where people try to avoid hearing Last Christmas…

I didn’t know this was a thing. When we got in initial rehearsals, Dean Elliot, one of our producers, director too, he was like, “It is a big thing.” I didn’t know it was a thing. I was like, “Oh, okay.” He was telling me how he and some of his friends, you just don’t do this to people, but you do when you really need to get somebody or whatever. So the Whamageddon… It might make an appearance. Your Whamageddon might not make it very long.

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What other historical person would you like to play?

Rock Hudson. His whole career and life fascinates me. Who else? Oh, Freddie Mercury. I’m picking all the music guys now.

What is your favorite part of the show?

The show is amazing, all of it. I really love the finale because people just stand up and lose it the whole time. And it’s awesome to see them and happiness. You know what I mean? George was ahead of his time. He saw the future. And when kids are finding his material now, the choices he made in life are still holding up, where not a lot of artists can say that. It’s for all ages. It’s for the whole family. Everybody says, “I wish I would’ve brought a friend. We would’ve had such a good time together. I had an amazing time.” There was one group of women in Arizona, they all had their Choose Life shirts on. It is a group effort. It would be something that you should grab a group of your friends. There’s a lot of crazy things going on in the world, and just go out and hang out together because we’re not promised tomorrow. And you’ll have a good time. I can guarantee it.


The Life and Music of George Michael comes to Overture Center in Madison on February 24.


Steve is a freelance artist in the Madison area. He’s been writing, producing, and directing plays and musicals for over 20 years at the Bartell Theatre. He’s also an accomplished photographer of theatre and other random people and places. 

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