Life & Culture

MJ The Musical review: Jacko show is an off-the-wall Thriller

The show’s star Myles Frost matches the moves of the best dancer of a generation


Beat it: Myles Frost and ensemble in MJ The Musical (Photo: Johan Persson)

Prince Edward Theatre | ★★★★★

If, like me, your response to Michael Jackson’s death included regret for never having seen him perform live, then this show will fill that gap. The miracle is that in Myles Frost, director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon found a performer who could match the moves of the best dancer of his generation.

The show is set in the rehearsal room where Jackson’s forthcoming tour is being hammered out just days before its first performance in Munich. Pushy MTV journalist Rachel (Philippa Stefani) has been given permission to watch Jackson and his team at work. MJ needs the good publicity. The press is becoming hostile. Questions about Jackson’s ability to match the success of his previous tours dare him to fail. Rumours about bleaching his skin won’t go away. So in rehearsal breaks Rachel and her cameraman get the exclusive chance to find out what makes Michael Jackson tick.

Two-times Pulitzer-winning writer Lynne Nottage’s vehicle for this musical is less than inspired. But the transitions from rehearsal-room reality to Michael’s memories are so seamlessly achieved it is hard to imagine a more effective way of telling this life story with Jackson serving as his own narrator. The younger MJs – Mitchell Zhangazha as the Afro-haired Michael who created the stunning album Off The Wall and for this performance Dylan Trigger as Little Michael – are excellent too. But it’s Frost who stands out, capturing Jackson’s evolution into the king of the pop.

There have been complaints that the widely reported accusations of child abuse have been ignored by this award-winning Broadway show. But honestly? That was not the show that I wanted to see. This one is.

Supported by a superb ensemble who in the backstory moments become the characters of Jackson’s past – including the four brothers with whom he performed as the Jackson Five on the Soul Train TV show. The excellent Ashley Zhangazha toggles between MJ’s caring choreographer and his bully of a father, Joseph.

Wheeldon has taken the art of the transition to new heights. An early slightly half-hearted rendition of Thriller is just the taster. The fully staged version is one of the stand-out musical theatre moments in West End history and is itself worth remortgaging for a ticket. Frost, meanwhile, emanates that otherworldly aura of performer whose music was brilliant, whose dancing was incomparable and who in performance came across as a slightly more developed species than the rest of us mortals.​

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