“MJ”: a stunning, engaging, and emotional depiction of the greatest pop legend’s musical career…

Neil Simon theater /Thursday March 14th, 2024.

Welcome back friends, and welcome this week, to a thrilling, 4-time-Tony Award-Winning musical Broadway show.

Yay!

And welcome to an energizing, dazzling, dynamite, moving, Broadway musical production, choreographed and directed by the illustrious and highly talented (British Choreographer and Musical Director), Christopher Wheeldon (b. 1973).

Yay!

A dynamic, cheerful, happy, filled with plenty of dancing, and highly entertaining musical production, based on a book by Lynn Nottage (b. 1964), and under the Music Direction of Jason Michael Webb, which has been running highly successfully, for the last 2 years, on Broadway, entitled “MJ”.

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And for those living under a rock, what does “MJ” stand for? And who is “MJ”?

Let me give you a clue: he is also known as “The King of Pop”.

Yes, you guessed right: the mystery “MJ” is, of course, Michael Jackson (1958-2009).

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One of the most beloved and profoundly influential artists of all times, recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time.

Wow and yay!

And “MJ”, the show, focuses essentially, on Michael Jackson’s artistic life, depicting many episodes of his electrifying career, and featuring many of his most famous worldwide musical hits.

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So wonderful, joyful, and fun!

And here are the 10 hit songs performed, I especially enjoyed, last Thursday March 14th: “Bad”, “Beat it”, “Billie Jean”, “Can you feel it?”, “Earth Song”, “Rock with you”, “Smooth Criminal”, “Stranger in Moscow”, “The way you make me feel”, and of course, the groundbreaking “Thriller”.

Wow and yay!

So again, welcome to the incredible and wildly entertaining “MJ”.

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What to say of “MJ”‘s storytelling choices?

That interestingly, the show has chosen to mostly tell, Michael’s musical/entertainment career story, starting from the middle of his career (10 years after his groundbreaking and sales defying “Thriller” album 1982/83 success), starting in 1992, in a rehearsal studio in Los Angeles (CA), featuring dancers and singers “warming up”, as Michael is about to embark on his “Dangerous” tour.

Wow and yay!

We, the audience, were then quickly treated to various flashbacks, lots of dancing and singing of course, and including various references to super popular music, dance, TV shows, which Michael (Jackson), either was influenced by, or took a part of, and featuring the making of his own revolutionary videos, especially “Thriller”.

Wow and yay!

Specifically, the story, rewinds back to a few of his (Michael’s), “Jackson 5” time, including scenes from the illustrious “Soul Train” TV show, and emphasizes Michael’s (and his family’s) incredible drive, their unbelievable work ethic, his partnership with Quincy Jones, as well as it depicts, at times, his strained relationship with his father, and sometimes even, with his protective mother.

Wow.

“MJ” the show also, in passing, recounts some of Michael’s personal issues: Michael’s pain killer addiction (after his skin burn accident, while filming a Pepsi commercial), and alludes as well, to his skin pigmentation issues.

And what mostly struck me, as Michael’s story unfolded, was both, the respect and the great love for Michael’s work, that could be felt from the audience.

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And the audience responded with mounting warmth and joy throughout the evening, as an array of wonderful performances were showcased, not only hit songs, including amazing dancing, from the great Michael Jackson, but including as well, from Motown (from the 70’s especially).

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And unusual, fun and salient details from Michael Jackson’s career were also shared on stage with the audience: from personal creative notes on upcoming tour staging ideas, to fashion bold choices (the hats, the socks, the glove), to epic dance moves (including the “moonwalk”), to rehearsal numbers, to the making of videos, and at times even, to an interview with a film maker, while ending, with the terrific “Thriller” song and dance number (which the audience knows by heart, and for many, even know, and can perform, with gusto, and great joy, especially over Halloween, its “creature/zombie like” awesome and incredibly original choreography).

Wow and yay!

What to say about the production?

That Christopher Wheeldon’s production was incredibly modern, compelling, moving, energetic, and gorgeous, with top notch singing, acting and dancing.

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A Wheeldon production recounting with great care, admiration and joy, Michael’s life, at often great, and yet, entertaining speed, over a few decades, and paying thus, an engaging and wonderful homage to Michael’s unbelievably long, highly influential, and incredibly successful career.

Wow and yay!

I also, especially loved the incredible energy given by the fun and entertaining “show business like” lighting, by lighting designer, Natasha Katz, which further elevated Michael’s huge pop star studded status.

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I also, especially enjoyed the fact that Michael was depicted as a “trio” of “Michael” performers, depending on the timeline of Michael’s career, often performing solo, and yet, sometimes, together.

Yay! yay! yay!

More on them in a second.

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And furthermore, I especially enjoyed, all the incredible dancing, which not only emphasized Wheeldon’s playfulness and top choreographic skills, but also, celebrated a few great 20th century Broadway and ballet choreographers, from Bob Fosse (1927-1987), to Alvin Ailey (1931-1989), including Twyla Tharp (b. 1941), as well as including fun moves found from the “Soul Train” iconic TV show, or from professional rehearsal studios, which (regarding the latter), even, starts off, the “MJ” show.

Wow and yay!

So fun, so incredibly stunning, and all of it, wildly entertaining.

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Also, I have to mention the terrific work (such beautiful afros, in particular), by Wig and Hair Designer, Charles Lapointe, which brought such fun, credibility, and nostalgia, to past eras.

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And also, I especially enjoyed the most glamorous and glittering costumes displayed by Costume Designer, Paul Tazewell, to allude with great veracity as well, to unique fashion choices, from various decades.

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And finally, I loved that the last artists on stage, were of course, the electrifying musicians, the first and foremost, energetic, funky, and highly talented pillars, to this terrific show.

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What to say about the conductor and performers?

That the orchestra, all the singers, and all the dancers, under the expert ear and talent, of Music Director, Jason Michael Webb, were incredibly alive, on fire, and bewildering, with, at times, interesting arrangements of the songs, and at others, cookie-cutter versions.

Wow and bravo!

And 3 awesome performers, particularly stood out for me:

First, I have to hand it off to American singer, Elijah Rhea Johnson, who was incredible, as “MJ”, the main character depicting “The King of Pop”. What an amazing singer, actor, and what an even more astounding dancer he is, and finally, what great sensitivity he displays.

Bravo!

Second, American singer, Tavon Olds Sample, was equally convincing and wonderful, as a slightly younger “Michael”, and terrific as well, while singing other secondary roles. And in his case, it is his singing, and acting abilities, which especially impressed me, even though, he is also an amazing dancer.

Bravo!

Third, and last but not least, young American singer, Jackson Hayes, as “Little Michael” was unbelievably charming, and already a great singer and dancer, despite his young age.

Bravo!

So, to sum up my feelings, about Wheeldon’s “MJ”, admired last Thursday March 14th, in great company: what a fun, exhilarating, inspiring, caring, highly and deservedly acclaimed, dancing “musical”, what a first rate, wonderfully entertaining, and scintillating cast of musicians, singers, and dancers, especially Rhea Johnson, Olds-Sample, and Hayes, as various “Michaels”, to tell beautifully, and with great sensitivity, MJ’s a.k.a Michael Jackson’s awesome and illustrious artistic and entertainment career, which so profoundly, touched the entire world.

Bravo!

Just terrific!

And not to be missed!

Until next time friends!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊