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MJ Now That’s Entertainment

MJ Now That’s Entertainment

Before I even had a chance to review MJ the critiques from the “woke” were on every newspapers by-line. The show was condemned for not dealing with the allegations of child molestation, but if you look at the time in history that the show takes place, it is before the rumors.

MJ takes place during rehearsals for The Dangerous World Tour. This tour donated all the profits to various charities including Jackson’s own “Heal the World Foundation”. It began in Munich, Germany, on June 27, 1992, and concluded in Mexico City, Mexico, on November 11, 1993. It grossed over $140 million and was attended by over 4 million people. The show was cancelled when Jackson announced he was seeking rehabilitation for his dependency on painkillers. The accusations of child molestation came after 1993.

Myles Frost and cast Photo by Matthew Murphy

The show starts at the rehearsal studio as the dancers are dancing and the backup singers are working on “Beat It.” Enter Michael, giving comments like” you’re behind the beat.” Jackson wants perfection and is a firm taskmaster. He also gives praise stating “Thank you, beautiful work.” Jackson wants to change things despite the lack of time and or funds.

Myles Frost and cast Photo by Matthew Murphy

During the rehearsals we see the undeniable talent, unavoidable genius, the pursuit for perfection and how he put himself, his money and his home on the line for perfection. Jackson has been told he is a has been, and this tour will either restart Jacksons career or he is broke.

Miles Frost and cast Photo by Matthew Murphy

As the show progresses we see his demons based on his childhood trauma’s. We hear his biggest hits, as we begin with the Jackson 5 era (“ABC,” “I’ll Be There,” and “I Want You Back”) then the early years of “Rock With You,” the magnificent Thriller (“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Human Nature,” and “Billie Jean”) to “Bad,” “Smooth Criminal” and “They Don’t Care About Us.”

Photo by Matthew Murphy

At the forefront is Myles Frost, in his Broadway debut as MJ, This is an award winning and star making performance. He brings an emotional dimension that makes us long to know the real person. The teen Jackson is played by Tavon Olds-Sample who makes us see the artist coming into his own. At the performance I saw Christian Wilson played Michael while in the Jackson 5 and this little child is perfection.

Ayana George as Jackson mother Katherine, offers him support, but sells him out to his father and money. One of the most wonderful moments in the show is when she sings “I’ll Be There,” It is heartbreaking and powerful.

Lynn Nottage photo by Emilio Madrid

I love Lynn Nottage (book) that brings Quentin Earl Darrington, both as Joseph Jackson and as Rob, the Dangerous tour boss. It shows Jackson could not separate his past from his present.

Quentin Earl Darrington, Miles Frost Photo by Matthew Murphy

During rehearsal Whitney Bashor, as the MTV producer Rachel and Gabriel Ruiz the fan boy MTV cameraman Alejandro are filming. We see the press hound Jackson on and during most of his adult life.

Miles Frost and cast Photo: Emilio Madrid

MJ presents one hit after another, with amazing orchestrations and arrangements by David Holcenberg and Jason Michael Webb, that had me dancing throughout the show and superb sound design by Gareth Owen’s. MJ is a visual wonderment that dazzles at every turn. Peter Nigrini’s projections give us insight into MJ’s writings and press headlines. Add to that Natasha Katz’s flawless lighting design and Paul Tazwell’s costume recreations that glitter and bring back an onset of memories.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Derek McLane’s set is transformational  especially with the demon laced “Thriller” curtain.  The show a Tony favorite in a majority of the categories.

Christopher Wheeldon photo by Emilio Madrid

Director/Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon will be hard to beat this awards season. I loved the second act opening highlighting the Nicholas Brothers, Fred Astaire and Bob Fosse. The last 15 minutes of this show is one amazing moment after another. Wheeldon  brings a show that is satisfying and so entertaining, at a time we really needed it. Bravo!

MJ, Neil Simon Theatre

Broadway

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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