Monday, May 4, 2015

MJ Live lives on at the Stratosphere Theater

MJ LIVE, the Michael Jackson tribute show recently moved to its new home at the Stratosphere Theater.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to have partnered MJ Live with the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino 
and their Stratosphere Theater.”   Dick Feeney, MJ Live Producer

With his unique voice, crisp dance moves and legendary status, Michael Jackson is one of the most complex stars for a tribute artist to emulate. It's in the first few moments of this kind of show that the audience is deciding if they trust the entertainer on stage enough to suspend disbelief for that hour or so that they're all together. Coming from an acting background I am always curious to see how different performers take on the same role. So I recently decided to see both Jalles Franca and Justin Dean who alternate the role of Michael Jackson in MJ Live. Jalles performs Sundays through Tuesdays and Justin, Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Jalles Franca and two of the dancers in MJ Live at the Stratosphere Theater

On a recent media night Jalles Franca performed. As someone who has been a fan of Michael Jackson since my teens I can say say with knowledge of the subject that Jalles' energetic interpretation is fantastic from start to finish. Jalles’ presence is strong, and although I know it took years to perfect, he looks like he was born to move the way Michael did. I had seen the show once before and was impressed with the talent of this tribute artist whose performance hits every mark while capturing the essence of the late singer.

Justin Dean as MJ
Justin Dean, who I saw the other night is different in that he's more like Michael from the inside out, meaning he seemed to emulate Michael Jacksons' softer side. His dance moves were right on track and a pleasure to watch but with more emphasis on the songs and the meaning of them, Justin provides a slightly different but equal approach than Jalles. Lastly, Justin's  Moonwalk, which he did to great applause, is killer!

Both Jalles and Justin have committed a large part of their lives to bringing Michael Jackson to fans at the highest level and in doing so are both entertaining, heart warming and exciting to see in action.

The shows is tight and focused at its new home at The Stratosphere Theater. MJ is the focus but the stage is filled in with several sharp, energetic dancers choreographed by Missy Cochran and a back up band that provides a full production experience. The large video screens on each side enhance the show without distracting from the performers.

The Jackson 5 segment is a nice surprise and I’m glad its there. It’s easy to forget because his solo career was so astounding, that Michael Jackson started as a five year old kid performing with his big brothers. The Jackson 5, with Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael were a sensation on their own before he went on his own. This energetic segment is a little mini shot of fun within the show!

MJ LIVE is strong with hits like Beat it, Black or White, Smooth Criminal, Dirty Diana, Thriller, and many more but also slows it down with She’s Out of My Life and Man in the Mirror to create a nice blend of MJ's dance singles and ballads throughout the show. The musical arrangement enhances this greatly, especially in the second half.

Michael Jackson is known for some of his noteworthy and timeless costume and fashion choices throughout his 45 year career. In MJ Live, whether its Jalles or Justin or the dancers, the costumes themselves are very well done. Nobody wants to see a legend being paid tribute to in ill fitted polyester or a bad wig, as is done all too often in these types of shows. Except for the Jackson 5 segment, where they are obviously having fun with funky costumes, the costumes are top notch and well fitted in MJ Live. The red leather jacket from Thriller, the white jacket and fedora from Smooth Criminal, and the adorned military style coats are almost as much a highlight of the show as the performers.

The impact Michael Jackson’s music had on his fans has continued in his absence. Just like Elvis Presley and other legends before him he will remain as popular as ever or even more so in the future. As Jalles and Justin become more experienced and embedded with the skills of the King of Pop the line between the original artist and the tribute artist will become even more blurred, ensuring MJ LIVE will continue to be well received for years to come. 

MJ Live's producer, Dick Feeney has been at the helm of several long running shows in Las Vegas including Viva Las Vegas and The Rat Pack is Back. I predict MJ LIVE will also become one of his most successful productions. With Michael Jackson gone for almost six years now, the demand for a thrilling tribute will only increase with each passing year.

Dick Feeney with Drew DiConstanzo, Stratosphere Entertainment Mgr

As MJ Live approaches its third anniversary they recently celebrated their move to the Stratosphere with a media night including a party at McCall’s Heartland Grill at the Stratosphere.  Special Michael Jackson themed art pieces were given as raffle prizes by the I.S.I. Group, The Agency for Underground Arts.

MJ LIVE runs 7pm nightly at the Stratosphere Theater.

 Anna Wendt Copyright 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment