Broadway Review: MJ THE MUSICAL (Neil Simon Theatre)

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by Gregory Bernard on February 4, 2022

in Theater-New York

BEAT IT, NAYSAYERS;
THIS SHOW WANTS TO BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’

The new Broadway musical at the Neil Simon Theatre far exceeds a mere revue of Michael Jackson’s iconic music and performance choreography. From the first scene in a rehearsal studio, a week prior to the opening of the “Dangerous Tour,” Myles Frost enters fully possessing the celebrity presence of the King of Pop. He sounds like Michael, sings and dances like Michael, he even captures that innocent bashful giggle that Michael had with his averted eyes and smile. Physically speaking, Myles is a bit slight, resembling more of a Prince than the taller, attractive Michael. Nevertheless, making his Broadway debut, Myles Frost is no doubt a star in the making.

Interrupting the rehearsal flow is a white female journalist named Rachel, though Karen may have been more aptly fitting. Michael fears his truths will be twisted and insists that his music speak for itself. Flashbacks ensue, and through the expertise of designers Derek McLane, Natasha Katz, and Peter Nigrini, we are seamlessly transported to theater venues, nightclubs, tv studios, and the film set of “Thriller,” which strikingly appears with an audible audience gasp and disappears with the magic of theater.

Miles Frost as Michael Jackson

Three actors portray Michael: Little Michael of the Jackson 5, teenage Michael of Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, and adult Michael. One actor could not be expected to survive all the singing and dancing in a performance, eight times a week — unlike the three actresses in The Cher Show at the same theater, a few years back. All three Michaels are outstanding and hold their own along with the rest of the extremely talented cast and musicians.

The book by Lynn Nottage takes Michael’s advice that his music speaks for itself. If you want drama and controversy, the documentary on HBO may be better suited. The Broadway musical solely focuses on the artistry of Michael Jackson and the struggle artists battle to fully realize their vision. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, every scene contains a musical number that’s a hit. Most unexpectedly is a dance in act two that pays homage to the men who influenced Michael’s work: the Nicholas Brothers, Fred Astaire, and Bob Fosse. Easily, the biggest dance musical currently playing on Broadway, the energy that is stirred up is electric — from the opening scene all the way through the curtain call and exit music — celebrating all that was brilliant in Michael Jackson.

photo by Matthew Murphy

MJ
Neil Simon Theatre
opened February 1, 2022
for tickets, visit 
mjthemusical

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