Live Theater Reviews

Theatre Review: MJ the Musical at The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Posted: June 2, 2024 at 12:08 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

One of the most prolific and popular artists in history, Michael Jackson’s legacy is a mix of controversies, chart-topping hits, and an unending drive to push the boundaries of the musical experience. Captivating audiences worldwide, Jackson pushed the boundaries of creativity, influenced pop culture, and grew into an iconic figure that continues to dominate the music industry even after his death. MJ the Musical explores the last days before the “Dangerous” Tour began in 1992. During rehearsals, Michael Jackson (MJ) reflects on his life and beginnings in the music field while being filmed by MTV for a documentary. His vast repertoire of music reflects the personal and professional challenges of his life amid the stress of embarking on a world tour.

Jamaal Field-Green thrills as MJ, the adult version of Michael Jackson, preparing for his newest tour while reflecting on his family interactions, including an overbearing father, that has led to his success in the music industry. Field-Green embodies the mannerisms of Jackson in a way that leads one to almost believe the famed musician is the one on stage, without the performance becoming a caricature. Field-Green is talented in not only singing the famed songs, but is captivating in his graceful, passionate, and expressive dancing.  He brings to life the inner turmoil, the child-like enthusiasm and the despair of a celebrity always chasing the next high (both figuratively and literally.)

Two other actors play Jackson in various stages of his life. Josiah Benson plays a child Michael becoming the focal point of The Jackson 5 as they work to a recording contract. Benson brings that loveable energy expected in the role and is heartbreaking as he stands up to a domineering father. He is particularly endearing in a soaring rendition of “I’ll Be There” with Anastasia Talley in the role of Kate Jackson. Talley’s robust and clear vocals bring an emotional depth to the show.

Brandon Lee Harris plays a young adult Michael on the brink of stardom and breaking from his brothers to start his own career. Harris’ impressive vocals bring the early score of Jackson’s solo career to life. The three Michaels appropriately and seamlessly work in and out of each musical number in a way that brings each era of Jackson’s life to stage.

Devin Bowles, in a dual role, portrays Rob, the exasperated tour director trying to navigate Michael’s fanciful demands before financial ruin and Joseph Jackson, Michael’s demeaning and angry father. Bowles artfully and smoothly transitions between each role, leaving no doubt to who he is playing at the moment.

The plot of the musical is skillfully constructed to show the inner turmoil that Michael faced throughout his life but neglects to showcase his extraordinary successes. The storyline, however, pales to the true standout of the show – the musical numbers. Each is carefully crafted to highlight the song through use of lighting, costumes, but most importantly, the choreography. The art of dance is expertly demonstrated by the ensemble, pays homage to Jackson’s innovation and daring and references the special moves that one associates only with MJ. Particularly notable are “Thriller”, “Beat It” and “Smooth Criminal” where the choreography echoes the groundbreaking tours and video compositions that intensified Michael Jackson’s fame.

MJ the Musical is a vibrant, high-energy tribute to the King of Pop. Whether a long-time fan or discovering his musical expertise for the first time, this tour is a stunning visual and melodic spectacle worth the experience. 

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Photos by Matthew Murphy