MJ: The Musical Review: Dazzling night celebrating the King of Pop | Theatre | Entertainment


You get plenty of bang for your buck in this bio-musical about the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

With a book by double Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, it was always going to be a class act.

Pivoting around the preparations and rehearsals for the Dangerous World Tour, it presents Jackson as a man whose quest for perfection resulted in him necking painkillers like Smarties. The covering device of an MTV journalist who exceeds her brief to observe his creative process by attempting to dig deeper into his elusive personality might have yielded interesting material in a different kind of show.

But what we get is a dazzling celebratory run through his greatest hits performed with spectacular precision by an A Class ensemble and backed by an astonishingly versatile band.

Flashbacks to his youth involve Jackson at three different ages – the young boy of the Jackson Five (Dylan Trigger as mini Michael on press night) being pushed to extremes by his demanding father, Joseph (Ashley Zhangazha), the teenage Jackson (Mitchell Zhangazha) finding his individual voice and talent who separates himself from the family to go it alone and the man/child mega star beloved by millions whose record sales have yet to be beaten.

If Broadway star Myles Frost leads the charge as the later MJ, capturing the star’s gestures and signature moves (as well as his little girl speaking voice) with practiced ease, his two younger selves quit themselves almost as well.

Starting in a rehearsal studio, it moves into other eras, including an amusing recreation of Soul Train with the Jacksons in full Dandyish regalia and a stunning neon-drenched sequence for Smooth Criminal. The sets and lighting are wondrous and the explosive set changes are louder than bombs.

The biggest number is Wheeldon’s reimagining the Thriller video as a voodoo carnival with a diabolical ringmaster and zombie dancers.

Some may consider this a hollow, vacuous enterprise but this is show business, folks, and it is his artistic, not personal, legacy that is being celebrated. Any attempt to cancel a man who has already been cancelled by God is a redundant exercise. The music stands. The songs are amazing. Let that be enough.



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