Michael Jackson is living in a Broadway thriller – deadline

Has any Broadway production arrived recently (or not so much) with the same emotional baggage – or carried it as easily – as visually and sonically exciting? MJ? Michael Jackson’s musical, as unlikely as such a prospect may have seemed a year ago, now seems poised to capture Manhattan with the same hurricane force that the real Jackson inflicted when it went down in television history. Motown 25.

When MJ can’t help but be shocked by the new that turned his 1983 television appearance into a defining era, it lacks its own thrills, not least a reminder after all these years of scandals and accusations that we once watched in real time as an undeniable talent turns into an inevitable genius. It’s a transition not since equal to that Choreographed director Christopher Wildan, book author Lynn Notge and impeccable cast under star Miles Frost bring life to the stage that raises the pulse.

To address the elephant man in the room: So far MJ reflects Jackson’s drug problems, raises (though only to dismiss) accusations of racial hatred of himself, cites the quirks of Bubble and Joseph Merrick, allegations of child abuse on the third paragraph go unheeded if not completely ignored. The approach, historically speaking, can be defended: events MJ occurs in 1992 when Jackson rehearses his upcoming Dangerous World Tour. The action musical places the musical a year before public prosecutions and police investigations that will follow Michael Jackson until his death in 2009 and his legacy to this day.

In the universe of musicals, volhe is the closest MJ Against this topic is a vague mention of a family invited to tour with the singer, but even this comment is open to interpretation: a business partner who raises this issue is simply concerned about the cost of extra people on tour, or he is worried about to put a young guy so close to the star? Is the sense of anticipation in the link rooted in concerns about child victims or victims of blackmailing tricksters? MJSilent answer: Decide for yourself.

Tevon Olds-Sample and Miles Frost as the two Michaels in “MJ”
Matthew Murphy

Obviously, the audience is spending a lot of money to attend MJ decided in favor of the man on stage, the fact that the book of the musical, written by double Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Notage, cleverly confirms the repeated references to the debate of art against the performer, here is often voiced single musical. inconvenient device: Nottage creates producer and cameraman MTV to film Jackson as he prepares and rehearses for the long-awaited world tour. Promising the star and his defenders that MTV’s interests and intentions are solely related to music, the producer could not refrain from looking for signs, well, anything, her interest sparked overheard references to pills, the ubiquitous atmosphere of tension, rumors of bleached skin and rocking noses, chimpanzees and elephant bones and hyperbaric oxygen chambers. Anyone who is attracted to Michael Jackson does not need to look far for signs of stunning eccentricity, which, at least in the public mind, will soon begin to overshadow the monumental talent.

We are told (if I may remind you) that the stakes for Jackson cannot be higher: nine years after his extremely successful, groundbreaking and defining career Thriller The album will be scrutinized by the press, the public and, last but not least, Jackson himself even for the fact that the king of pop music can’t hold the crown forever. The tour and album Dangerous will either bring Jackson back to the cultural top, or simply bring him back to the earthly realm inhabited by the Madonnas, Bowie and Springsteen. As Jackson often says, when “Dangerous Show” becomes a mantra, it should be perfect.

Watch MJ, it is easy to suspect that his top creative team was motivated by the same almost manic aspiration. In addition to the device for framing pedestrians, MJ persistently and incessantly promotes going beyond nostalgia just fine, which can turn even minor jukeboxes into crowd lovers. It turns out: MJ it’s a wildly entertaining miracle.

Matthew Murphy

Acute sensations begin early. Ten minutes before the “curtain” a group of dancers, backing vocals, security guards and recording technicians begin to populate what we quickly recognize as a rehearsal studio. The excitement grows with each message that the star is in five minutes, then in three, and then … By the time Jackson – immediately get to know his light physique and hunched posture, his loose clothing, his presence – goes quietly, the rehearsal area – and the stage of the Neil Simon Theater – are ready for action. Mixing and benevolent chatter gives way to forms, shapes and sounds that we learn from the very first note: “Beat It”.

The song didn’t have time to end MJ establishes his central theme: Jackson as a quiet but firm boss, just as demanding in his quest for perfection as his abusive father. In the soft, fairy voice we all know, Jackson keeps everyone in line with his vision: “Thank you, great job,” he almost whispers after the last notes of the first song. “I liked the harmony. But, Keith, you keep stepping over my vocals. Can you step back a little? … you have to brush me off. Remember that the melody is royal, go in your pocket and you will have no problems … And Rob, that if we change things, only now I have begun to see something more abstract … “

During his two actions, MJ presents one hit after another, the orchestrations and arrangements of David Holzenberg and Jason Michael Webb are a fitting testament to Jackson’s impossible standards, and Gareth Owen’s superb sound design that captures every complex rhythm. The songs breathe fire.

And what are these songs, almost three dozen of them. Roughly – very roughly – following the chronology of real life, MJ offers tunes from the Jackson era 5 (“ABC”, “I’ll Be There”, “I Want You Back”, “The Love You Save”) to Michael’s early solo period “Rock With You”, triumphant Thriller (“Thriller”, “Wanna Be Startin ‘Somethin'”, “Human Nature”, “Billie Jean”) and further (“Bad”, “Smooth Criminal”, “They don’t care about us”).

As in other outstanding genres of the machine – Not too proud, Jersey Boys, Tina – Notage’s book and Wildan’s direction / choreography influence the collective nostalgia without sacrificing vitality at the moment. Will young viewers be just as excited as Boomer, at the exact reproduction of the still amazing “Dance Machine” (complete with Michael’s robot)? Or with that cultural performance of Motown 25 “Billie Jean,” which featured gloves, a hat and a lunar gait? It is hard to imagine that they will not be.

Matthew Murphy

Aside from the excellent cast (more on that later) and the source material that speaks for itself, MJ differs in a visual spectacle that would dazzle the king himself. Decorator Derek McLain turns this huge rehearsal space into, in turn, the intimate boundaries of Jackson’s childhood home, the set The train of the soul and, in one of the musical’s stoppers, a graveyard with the video “Thriller”.

I say one of the hitchhikers because they come fast and furious: the press conference table is turned upside down with Michael from above it becomes a small stage within a stage. Or later, when Jackson recognizes his dance heroes by showcasing (and magnifying) the styles of Bob Foss, Fred Astaire and the Nicholas brothers. Or when a wall breaks into shards of glass, tabloid headlines are projected onto each one. (Peter Nigrini’s superb projections make another argument in a separate Tony Award category, so much they add to Natasha Katz’s flawless lighting design).

I like it Diana, musical before that MJ even gets applause for his (yes, overused word) iconic costumes. Costume designer Paul Tezwell not only correctly achieves the latest stitch of Jackson’s famous fashion, from a shiny black jacket, too short pants, a gold brocade vest, a red “Beat It” leather, but he is very concerned about supporting players’ outfits in styles that are so appealing. as well as the corresponding epochs. (Surprisingly, the only notable mistake at the press conference is when Tezvel dresses a bunch of reporters in long black coats, apparently reminiscent of a bunch of vultures; waving around in a choreographic manner almost identical to a similar scene. Diana, effect, then and now, on the nose and stupid).

As Michael’s main – there are three incarnations – Miles Frost in his debut Broadway debut brings a fully formed presence to a performance that embarks on a career. His singing and dancing mimicry – this is not a slam – is flawless, and his acting chops are more than able to give an emotional dimension to this infinitely imitated man. Notage’s book has a severe effect on the psychology of the chair – Michael Jackson’s artistic brilliance was inseparable from his self-destruction, and both stemmed from the severe (to put it mildly) severe excuses of Joseph Jackson’s father (well played by Quentin Earl). Darrington, doubly, in a clever approach to staging, in the role of Rob, the head of the Dangerous tour).

As the middle Michael (after Jackson 5, before Dangerous) Tavon Olds-Sample kills the excitement and impatience of the artist, who is just beginning to come to his senses, and Christian Wilson (in this play; he shares the role of Little Michael with Walter Russell). purple ensemble of hats and vests with fringe.

Also known among many: Ayana George as Catherine Matriarch Jackson and Gabriel Ruiz as MTV star cameraman Alejandro. Only Whitney Bashor, a great singer, when she finally gets a chance, will sum up her material: as MTV producer Rachel, she can do little to revive the bunch of Wikipedia exposure that has piled on her.

Could a jukebox survive without such devices that attract an audience? We can only wonder. Notage, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes in Drama (for Destroyed and Sweat) and author of a wonderful this season Clyde and Intimate clothing, hasn’t come up with an alternative, and if anyone can stand the challenge, it will be her. Time after time in MJ she demonstrates a genuine ability to walk in fine lines, perhaps most notably in Joseph Jackson’s character. Giving (perhaps too many votes) to an acquaintance an apology (recently offered by Jackson’s sister Janet Jackson) that the family owes its success to the relentless and humiliating approach of the patriarch, Notage and MJ ultimately make it clear that the abuser was (a hint, a hint) a monster that could compete with any horror movie.

As for what awaits Michael Jackson – accusations of harassment of children, increasingly serious addictions, paranoia, tragic, absurd and lonely death – MJ stops before it all starts. How could it be otherwise? Even a gifted writer like Notage would not be able to go through such a fine line as to compare her to Michael Jackson Thriller with Michael Jackson Leaving Neverland. The rest of us can only try to forget for each other, and MJ makes it thoroughly, nervously easy to do.

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