Performing Arts: Theater
May 5, 2022
An iconic musical force, Michael Jackson sailed through the pop charts, revolutionized music videos and discovered a magical universe in which he moved and sang like no one else. In the new Broadway musical, MJ, directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon along with  Rich + Tone Taulauega (responsible for Michael Jackson's choreography) captured Jackson's manic rehearsal process prior to the Danger Concert.

Deftly synced flash backs filled in the outlines of Jackson's volatile family life  and rise to fame. Versatile actors seamlessly slipped into family characters and back to the rehearsal room. A standout ensemble is buoyed by the multi-talented manager/father Joe Jackson (Quentin Earl Darrington); mother, Katherine Jackson (Ayana George); and Little Michael (Walter Russell III).   Coming from a ballet and contemporary dance background, Wheeldon knows how to design spatially rich, kinetically compelling movement sequences that jauntily mesh ballet and modern dance, with street and commercial dance. 

And rather than rely on unison dancing and gymnastic tricks (like too many musicals), Wheeldon broke apart the space in irregular chunks of movement and counterpoint that teased the eyes.  In the role of Michael Jackson -- the adult manifestatio -- Myles Frost, shared Jackson's high-pitched sweet voice, laced with conviction and sharply honed body isolations. Although no one can fully replicate Jackson's genius and charisma, all the actors assuming the role of MJ as he grows up, excelled. 

For Jackson fans, the soundtrack produced non-stop grins particularly the way the band, lead by Jason Michael Webb punched out the never-ending hits. 

When the set (Derek McLane) converted to the phantasmagoric "Thriller" scene, the visuals went wild, however the dance got buried in the layers. The choreographic choices in this section steered relatively clear of the memorable choreography singed in the memory of many a fan.

Deftly directed, MJ is one of the best examples of seamlessly shifting the narration from past to present wrapped in body tingling dance and music.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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