Review: MJ The Musical


by Mike Matthaiakis

MJ the musical” captivates audiences with its electrifying energy and seamless blend of iconic music and masterful storytelling. From the moment the curtain rises on Derek McLane’s meticulously crafted rehearsal room set, the stage is set for a mesmerizing journey through the life and legacy of the King of Pop.

Myles Frost commands the stage with mesmerizing charisma as he embodies the essence of Michael Jackson, from his slick dance moves to his velvety vocals. With each electrifying performance, Frost captures the essence of Jackson’s artistry while delving into the complexities of his personal struggles and triumphs.

Lynn Nottage’s insightful book takes audiences on a captivating journey through Jackson’s formative years, from his turbulent childhood to his meteoric rise to superstardom as the lead singer of the Jackson Five. Alongside Frost, Mitchell Zhanagazha delivers a standout performance, portraying different facets of Jackson’s multifaceted persona with depth and nuance. They managed to adopt the same way of speaking (vocalization, accent) giving to their performance and their character, a sense of continuity. 

Christopher Wheeldon’s direction and choreography infuse the production with a dynamic energy that propels the narrative forward with breathtaking momentum. Scenes seamlessly transition from intimate moments of introspection to electrifying dance numbers, keeping audiences riveted from start to finish.

The musical numbers, drawn from Jackson’s extensive catalog, are brought to life with stunning precision and artistry. From the infectious rhythms of “Beat It” to the haunting melodies of “Thriller,” each song is a testament to Jackson’s unparalleled talent and enduring legacy.

As the production unfolds, Natasha Katz’s lighting design adds an extra layer of visual splendor, illuminating the stage with a kaleidoscope of colors and textures that enhance the storytelling experience.

While “MJ” celebrates Jackson’s musical genius and cultural impact, it also acknowledges the controversies and challenges he faced throughout his life. From his childhood years and his troubled relationship with his demanding and strict father Joseph (Ashley Zhangazha), to his more recent ones like the addiction to pain killers. The production navigates these complexities with sensitivity and grace, offering audiences a nuanced portrait of a legendary artist.

Yes, the elephant in the room is not properly addressed. And that’s ok. While the production acknowledges the controversies surrounding Michael Jackson, it opts to focus primarily on his musical legacy rather than delving into the legal and moral complexities of certain allegations. It’s a decision that allows the show to celebrate Jackson’s artistry while sidestepping the fraught discussions surrounding his personal life.

In the end, “MJ the Musical” is a thrilling celebration of music, dance, and the enduring legacy of one of the greatest entertainers of all time. With its mesmerizing performances, innovative staging, and unforgettable music, it’s a must-see theatrical experience that will leave audiences dancing in the aisles long after the final curtain falls.

MJ the musical” is at the Prince Edward Theatre, till 7 December, 2024.