Let’s get straight to it: If you never got the chance to see Michael Jackson live in concert, this show is about as close as you can get.
About the show
“MJ: The Musical” is a Tony-Away-winning musical about Michael Jackson. The show tells the story of Jackson’s life and music through the creation of his “Dangerous World Tour” in 1992.
There are three versions of Michael in the show — childhood, late teen and adult Michael.
Choosing a favorite
All the songs are great, and the performances were high-energy and engaging throughout the show, but two stood out most to me: the instrumental white-hat scene and “For the Love of Money.”
Without giving too many spoilers, there’s a lyric-free performance — you’ll know it when you see it — that was one of my favorites in the show. The dancers’ moves are sharp, and it reminded me of how powerful Michael Jackson was as a performer; his voice was great, but he didn’t need the lyrics.
He could wow the crowd without singing a word.
There’s also an unexpected performance of “For the Love of Money” that I enjoyed. Devin Bowles, who has dual roles in the show as Joe Jackson and Rob (the tour director), has a distinctly deep voice with a rasp that’s spot-on for the song.
But in all honesty, it’s unfair to choose a true favorite. It’s Michael Jackson; every song was a hit.
What surprised me
Going into “MJ: The Musical,” I half-expected disappointment. The voice, the dance moves, that overall star power just couldn’t be recreated, I thought. (Let’s not forget 2004’s “Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story.”)
However, after this show, I stand corrected.
Each of the three versions of Michael delivered, but Roman Banks — the oldest MJ and pseudo-narrator of the show — is almost like a reincarnation of the pop star. The inflections in Banks’ voice, his singing and his very-spot-on dance moves were just what I would expect from the King of Pop.
At one point in the show, someone yelled, “Go ‘head, Mike!” It was like the audience had forgotten Banks wasn’t the real thing.
What I wish was different
We usually try to keep these reviews relatively neutral, but…the show was just that good.
The only thing I wish was different is purely self-centered: I wish they would have incorporated “Dirty Diana” and “Lady of My Life” — two of my favorite MJ songs.
Drink of the night
The show’s themed drink was called Iconic, a sweet cocktail made with white Moscato, cranberry juice and a splash of peach schnapps. According to Bluementhal’s website, the drink was created in homage to Michael Jackson’s rumored favorite drink, Moscato.
This is one of the best musicals I’ve seen. The songs are familiar, the set design is constantly changing, and the performances feel authentic — down to the moonwalk — to what a show starring Michael Jackson might have been like.
I highly recommend it, and I would definitely see it again.
If you go:
Location: Belk Theater
Time: Varies by show
When: Sept. 27- Oct. 8