MJ The Musical Reviews
The New York Times- Somewhat Recommended
"...Michael Jackson was such a magnet for strange stories that they nearly obliterated his gift. Yet in defensively brushing off the ones that don't matter while pointedly ignoring the one that does, the new musical "MJ," which opened on Tuesday at the Neil Simon Theater, may be the strangest Michael Jackson story yet."
NY Daily News- Recommended
"...The show, like Jackson's own concerts, offers a great rush of adrenaline and excitement, pivotal qualities as Broadway plots its pandemic comeback."
Associated Press- Somewhat Recommended
"...In it, Jackson comes out alone and puts on a black sequined jacket, black fedora and single white glove, studded with rhinestones. He dances and sings "Billie Jean" and then soon identifies three key inspirations - Fred Astaire, The Nicholas Brothers and Bob Fosse - and then dances with each of them, showing how his style is in their debt (like Fosse's bowler adopted as MJ's fedora). It's a brilliant bit of musical stagecraft."
Hollywood Reporter- Recommended
"...Nottage's production arrives at an interesting cultural moment, one in which we are being shepherded back to the gospel of the Jacksons. Janet Jackson recently released a Lifetime documentary special that establishes her own narrative. But times have changed, especially the public's scrutiny of celebrity accounts, along with conversations around what constitutes abuse and its impact on mental health. MJ will undoubtedly introduce a new generation to the artist's work, but I wonder if it will cast the same spell."
Vulture- Not Recommended
"...MJ wants to be a concert so much - freed from narrative, it could just be bop after banger after blockbuster, the Beatlemania of our time, animated by Myles Frost's uncanny portrait. Every moment when people are speaking instead of singing feels wrong. As a concert, it could simply elide all those inconvenient and tragic elements of the Michael Jackson legacy. So why isn't it one? Maybe the forces that pushed MJ onto Broadway thought a concert by an impersonator, no matter how gifted, would be tacky, and a playwright would give it class. But theater has a way of holding up a mirror to things - and when you look into its unforgiving reflection, it's not just Michael in there, looking out at us."
Variety- Somewhat Recommended
"...The demons that Jackson battles in "MJ," his father and the media, are figured as monstrous. But if there was darkness behind the angelic falsetto, a mix of light and shadow that made Michael Jackson a singular artist, "MJ" enacts a sleight of hand, insisting it didn't belong to him. It's a renouncement worthy enough of a smooth criminal."
New York Post- Recommended
"...But "MJ," directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, does not match or really approach the electricity of the King of Pop, who was an unparalleled live performer. The rehearsal-room setting and narrative randomness, particularly in the winding second act, tamps down the concert energy."
Washington Post- Recommended
"...Frost has many of Jackson's memorable moves in his own repertoire; the effect of watching him and the mix of Juilliard- and Broadway-schooled dancers is so exciting you want to figure out a way to download them into your own psyche. "I want to keep this about my music," Frost's Jackson says at one point, in that sly stage whisper. "MJ" has the same wish. The explosive power of the experience here is that you almost forget that he was about anything else."
Time Out New York- Somewhat Recommended
"...The real Jackson was an unconventional person, to say the least, with a public persona that blurred many of the usual binaries: black and white, male and female, gay and straight, young and old, pop and rock. MJ doesn't delve into such questions, but takes pains to foreground his artistry. The show depicts Jackson as a perfectionist genius of music and performance, mindful of his influences-including James Brown and, as one standout dance number illustrates, the Nicholas Brothers, Bob Fosse and Fred Astaire-and rigorous in his pursuit of the perfect funky jam that he calls "the smelly jelly." ("Keith, you keep stepping all over my vocals." "What if we bring in the guitar right here?" "Can you give the hi hat a little more love?")"
The Wrap- Not Recommended
"...Christopher Wheeldon directs and choreographs, and his many dazzling dance sequences divert from the press releases that the actors spout in between the musical numbers. Wheeldon also thanks his husband in the Playbill bio. That's about as honest as "MJ" gets when it comes to anybody not being straight."
TheaterMania- Highly Recommended
"...Of course, there will always be people who find nothing enjoyable about Michael Jackson. They don't think such a problematic artist deserves a platform, and they will bristle at Nottage's propagandistic portrayal of Jackson as a kind of pop music E.T. - simultaneously wonderous and too fragile for our fallen world. MJ is not for them. Rather, it is for the millions of Michael Jackson fans whose fealty to the King of Pop remains unbroken, and who are eager to have a good time in a Broadway theater with songs they already know and love. They won't be disappointed by MJ. I suspect it's going to be a big fat hit."
Stage and Cinema- Highly Recommended
"...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."
Broadway News- Somewhat Recommended
"...For Jackson's ardent fans (and believers that he was not guilty of the behavior ascribed to him), "MJ" won't raise any thorny issues. Others may not see it similarly; despite its vague references to the pedophilia accusations, the show essentially makes Jackson a victim of his father, his inherited perfectionism, the prying eyes of the media and a culture that denigrates Black talent."
Theatrely- Somewhat Recommended
"...I also cannot take away from the ensemble, which is uniformly terrific. As for the leads, Ayana George delivers a lovely "I'll Be There" as Jackson's mother; anything Wilson does as the teenage Michael is sensational; and Frost manages to bring out the best from the man in the cracked mirror. But as Jackson says in the second act, "We have the icing, but it doesn't mean anything unless the cake tastes good," and no amount of frosting could make this amoral mud pie any easier to swallow."
Cultural Daily- Somewhat Recommended
"...The weak book centers on Jackson recounting his fractured childhood and life story for an MTV crew as he painstakingly assembles production numbers based on his greatest hits. Jackson's inner life, his sexuality, his attitude towards his blackness, in fact anything slightly troubling, is barely touched on."