Review: MJ at the Eccles Theater is Iconic

MJ plays the Eccles Theater for a limited engagement through Sunday, March 3, 2024.

By: Feb. 28, 2024
Review: MJ at the Eccles Theater is Iconic
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The national tour of MJ, now playing at the Eccles Theater, is a restrained, realistic snapshot of one brief but significant period in Michael Jackson’s life that serves as a springboard for an entertaining, if meandering, realization of iconic music and images from his career. 

The Broadway musical MJ (book by Lynn Nottage) received 10 Tony nominations and four wins in 2022.  It is partially a memory play of sorts that makes use of Michael Jackson’s catalog of hits in both diegetic and non-diegetic forms.  It’s 1992, and MJ and his team are in the throes of final preparations and rehearsals for his Dangerous World Tour. Creative and financial differences, as well as the arrival of a documentary crew from MTV, stir up thoughts of his past and yearning for perfection.

Roman Banks as MJ (with Jamaal Fields-Green as his alternate) and Brandon Lee Harris as Michael are two sides of the same coin, each representing the late king of pop at different ages of his life with empathy and volumes of talent. 

Mary Kate Moore as Rachel and Da’Von T. Moody as Alejandro—the documentarians—succeed at jointly providing an identifiable lens through which we can see MJ’s past and 1992 present.

It’s thrilling to witness how Devin Bowles as Joseph Jackson/Rob and Anastasia Talley as Katherine Jackson/Kate effortlessly transition between their “present-day” roles on the tour and the haunting shadows of Michael’s parents.

The ensemble also slips seamlessly into multiple parts with fully realized personalities and dancing that is tightly and dynamically executed.  It’s a treat to follow individuals across their tracks to see the incredible feat each one pulls off across the runtime of the show. 

It’s a dance-heavy piece with dance numbers the focal point of many scenes. The choreography by director Christopher Wheeldon, with Michael Jackson movement by Rich + Tone Talaueg, is intricate and rousing.

Wheeldon assembled a design team that are all legends in their own rights. They understood intrinsically how to work with the foundation of a minimalist rehearsal space and cleverly expand to illuminate and elucidate the memories, dreams, and creative musings of MJ.

The scenic design by Derek McLane and projection design by Peter Nigrini are transportative. The costume design by Paul Tazewell and wig/hair design by Charles G. LaPointe include both the understated and the recognizable.  And the lighting design by Natasha Katz separates the real from the imagined with a burnished glow.

MJ plays the Eccles Theater for a limited engagement through Sunday, March 3, 2024.  For tickets, call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS (2787) or visit www.artsaltlake.org

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy




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