Defacing Michael Jackson: A Review

Chicago Premiere!
Flying Elephant Productions Presents
By Aurin Squire
Directed by Alexis J. Roston
July 27 – August 12, 2018, at Stage 773

The cast

Michael Jackson, who was considered the “King of Pop,” was at the peak of fame, success and admiration in 1984. His music transformed the 80s and he was the hottest celebrity on the planet. In 1984, Michael won a total of eight Grammy awards, including the record of the year for the song “Beat It” and Album of the year for “Thriller.” With so many people around the world who loved this iconic legend, writer Aurin Squire brings to Stage 773, a tribute to the man who wore a black fedora, and a silver sequin glove on his left hand: Michael Jackson.
“Defacing Michael Jackson” is set in 1984 in the swamps and canals of Opelika, Florida. A disparate group of African-American teenagers creates their own Michael Jackson fan club. They were united in their love for Michael, but when a white boy moves into the neighborhood and tries to join the club, the unspoken rules are questioned, and the dynamics of the group begins to change.
This parody about the dos and don’ts of Blackness, hero worship and American identity strikes a chord in the present day theatrical play and what is accepted becomes unacceptable as one person’s family life begins to unravel. Defacing Michael Jackson explores the intricacies of life in 1984 as interracial conflicts seen through the eyes of four youth; varying in race, gender and mental stability all while trying to get enough money to have a mural of their musical idol commissioned.
Director Alexis J. Roston brings Aurin’s vision of evoking a community to life on a small stage with four actors delving into uncharted waters. Obadiah played by Chris Taylor does an excellent job narrating the storyline by infusing the highlights of Michael Jackson’s life while telling the story of their own lives.
Frenchy, the only girl in the play, is the biggest die-hard fan ever of Michael Jackson, is played by Jo Jo Pender who is determined to keep the fan club all Black so that their community can have something of their own. Then there’s Eldridge Shannon III who plays a dual role of mentally challenged twin brothers Yellow and Red. Jack, the unwanted member who comes to the community performed by Samuel Martin, is trying to fit in and understand Black culture, has his own family issues, which lead to him moving into the community.
“Defacing Michael Jackson” is a delightful play, and anyone that loves Michael will enjoy the acting and the music. There are a few scenes that added little value to the play and writer Squire and Director Alexis J. Roston could have eliminated, like the “You so ugly” dialogue to make this two hour play a little shorter. However, it was entertaining to reminisce over life in the 80s.
Michael Jackson hung out with President Ronald Reagan, who said Jackson laughed when Regan said, “Michael, please give some TLC to the PYTs”. I know that sounds a little Off The Wall, but Michael’s life had a lot of strange and beautiful moments and Defacing Michael Jackson relives them all.
Let’s Play recommends that you check out this funny, nostalgic play at Stage 773.
Brenda and Rick McCain

The cast includes:
Samuel Martin (Jack)
JoJo Pender (Frenchy)
Eldridge Shannon III (Red, Yellow, Commish)
Chris Taylor (Obadiah)

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