1,500 inmates dancing to Michael Jackson hit on YouTube inspire Filipino Canadian musical


In 2007, a video of 1,500 Filipino prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller went viral. Now it’s the basis for a new musical that is being hailed as the first fully realized Filipino Canadian musical.

Prison Dancer has arrived at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre for month-long run

A group of performers dance onstage in brightly coloured outfits.
A performance of Prison Dancer, a musical inspired by a 2007 viral YouTube post, is shown at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre earlier this year. The musical started a run at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Thursday, and the show’s Filipino Canadian co-creator calls it ‘a moment for our community.’ (Nanc Price)

To most, the video wouldn’t go much further than it already had. A post showing Filipino prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller may have led to a bit of a viral moment on YouTube in 2007, but afterwards it was expected to do what all other viral moments do: fade away.

But that’s not what Romeo Candido saw.

“I thought it was a no-brainer — I thought other people were going to write a musical about this,” Candido, a Filipino Canadian writer and choreographer, told CBC News in a recent interview. “I just thought it was ripe for storytelling.”

That instinct bore out, because just over 15 years later, it led to the musical Prison Dancer

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