Myles Frost and MJ over the weekend (spoilers)
Posted by: mikem 11:34 am EDT 06/27/22

Thank you all for your input about my previous question about Myles Frost's schedule in MJ. I decided to go on Saturday afternoon, and he was in! An unusual series of events happened, though: the only person out on the board at first and the only Playbill insert was the woman who plays his mother. Then as the curtain was going up, there was an announcement that "middle Michael" would be out. Then as the curtain was going up for Act II, there was an announcement that one of the ensemble would be out for the rest of the show. So the board went from one name at first to three names at intermission (because the understudy for middle Michael now had someone else covering his usual roles - there is a standby for middle Michael but he was not the one who went on) to four names at the end of the show. I only remember one other time in all my theatergoing when someone was announced at opening curtain, and one other time when someone was replaced mid-show.

I'm glad I had the chance to see Frost. His imitation of Michael Jackson is uncanny. There were times I would have thought I was listening to the original recordings. And his dancing is phenomenal. I felt kind of bad for the ensemble dancing their heart out during some of their combined numbers, because no one is looking at them. The middle Michael understudy was talented and got the job done, but he minimally resembled the real-life Jackson. Their combined scenes reinforced how good Frost is at sounding and moving like Michael Jackson.

One odd thing was that Frost definitely seemed to pull back during the 11 o'clock Thriller number, where he didn't seem to be going all out. His energy level before then was really impressive. At one point early in the number, it looked like he may have slipped, which may have thrown him off, but even before that, he was already at a much lower energy level than for the show up until then. Perhaps he was worried he had strained something.

Frost is a good singer and an incredible dancer. Is Frost a good actor? I would say that the show doesn't give him much of an opportunity to demonstrate that. DanielVincent earlier said that the standby makes better use of the material, but the show gives the actor little chance to show much range. It may be a sad reflection of Jackson's actual life, but the "adult Michael (MJ)" character has no friends or confidants in the show and no conversation with a relative or anyone he has a personal relationship with. Every conversation is with a reporter or a business associate, and he is closed and guarded. And I think it's true-to-life that MJ doesn't show us a large emotional range. In real-life interviews, even when Michael Jackson is talking about a laden subject, he still seemed remote. I think part of it is the airiness and lack of force in his voice, which Frost captured really well.

And the show shies away from anything substantive, anyway. It brings up his possible pill dependency but never explores it. The scenes with his father could have been played at a much higher emotional level -- Quentin Earl Darrington is a great actor and could have ratcheted it up if that's what the show wanted. He should be scary to be around. Those scenes are generally played with little Michael or middle Michael anyway, with adult Michael as an observer. And the show repeatedly says that Jackson is pushing himself too hard and is too exacting, but it reminded me of when people in job interviews say their greatest weakness is that they are a perfectionist -- that's the best you can do to show a flaw? I get that they were never going to discuss the allegations, but it all felt very impersonal.

I'm kind of disappointed that this was the best book Lynn Nottage could have come up with, but that's probably all the estate would allow. But I am glad that this show did not win Best Musical with such a superficial book. Part of me thinks they should have tossed any attempt at making the show personal and just made it about the rigors of putting together a concert tour, with much less dialogue and more full songs.

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