“MJ Live: A Michael Jackson Tribute” captures the magic, MJ fans will flip, and non-fans may just join the fan club. Jackson was a larger-than-life phenomenon. Red Mercury Entertainment LLC
Michael Jackson casts a long shadow across pop culture. One of the few artists ever who was both totally unique and breathtaking in his talent, Jackson could strike a pose and send his legion of fans into raptures.
It helps if you’re already one of those breathless fans. That’s that target audience of “MJ Live: A Michael Jackson Tribute” at the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino. Even if you are one of the nine people on the planet who never saw what the fuss was about; or are visiting from another planet and want to see the best entertainment Earth has to offer, you could do a lot worse than this loving recreation of classic MJ in a much more intimate, up-close and personal venue than ever would have been possible when Jackson was both alive and a mega star – which was about 95% of his life.
Through exacting recreations of Jackson’s look, voice, outfits, attitude, and signature moves, the crack impersonator at the center of this show makes it clear what was obvious as Jackson approached his own career peak – MJ was practically from another planet anyway. A planet of supermen; supernatural in beauty, grace, talent, and singing ability. Jams like “Billy Jean,” “Bad,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Black or White,” and “Thriller” crackle and pop with a mix of motown and 80’s pop that sounds just as peerless now as they did in the 80s and 90s. Ballads like “Man In The Mirror” and “You Are Not Alone” convey the kind of sweetness and vulnerability that transcend treacle.
If hearing this playlist makes you want to get up and dance, you’re in luck – dancing at your seat or in the aisles is encouraged. You might even get a hug or a song dedicated to you by the MJ-impersonating star. Or, if you’re of age, you can sit down and order one of several MJ-themed adult beverages (the “Thriller,” the “Smooth Criminal,” etc.). Like all MJ shows while the real thing was still with us, this spectacle is very family-friendly.
The outfits made Jackson unique as much of the music. The star and his backup dancers faithfully recreate numerous post-“Thriller” classices. The sparkly blazer and skinny trousers; the plunging white tunic that bares his whole chest; martial jackets with epaulets that Chris Rock famously said made him look like “Captain Crunch”; white Chicago-gangster suits and fedoras meant to be accessorized with a gravity-defying forty-five degree lean.
Executing spins, poses, pop-and-lock, and the oft-imitated Moonwalk with ease, the impersonator has Jackson down cold. You can’t fault him for a prescient career move – look kind of like MJ, and get wicked good at his moves. The recreation makes it clear why MJ was such a showstopper. There was no lackadaisical, “I’m-pretty-and-an-ok-singer-so-I-don’t-need-to-try” quality to Jackson’s star power. Mimicking the screwed-up face common from still captures of Michael in mid-song, Jalles Franca, the impersonator reminds us that Jackson didn’t only sing beautifully, with both grit and impeccable tone and a sound all of his own. He also sang as hard as he could, and with his whole body
Cramming an impressive light and stage show onto a small platform, with back-up dancers impeccably choreographed, what speaks the loudest is the star performer himself. He communicates the angst, the commitment, the sheer triple-threat mastery that etched the name “Michael Jackson” into history.
Verdict: MJ fans will flip, and non-fans may just join the fan club. Jackson was a larger-than-life phenomenon. Through reverence and craft, “MJ Live: A Michael Jackson Tribute” captures a little of that magic. Make sure to stick around afterward for photos and meet-and-greet.