120: I’ve Found Peace Within Myself

Damien Shields returns to The MJCast as a guest host, joining Elise for a jam-packed news and discussion episode! Damien is a long-time Friend of the Show, author, and Cascio tracks expert. The duo catches up on loads of updates in the world of Michael Jackson, including several new MJ-related books, a new podcast, updates on MJ One and the Robson/Safechuck hearings, Paris Jackson’s debut EP, lots of recently leaked MJ songs, amazing new content for fans from John Cameron, Marcos Cabota, Brad Sundberg, ?uestlove, Single White Glove—and much, much more. Plus, Damien and Elise discuss the Estate’s approach to HIStory25.

Discussion Topics
• New footage from the Bad World Tour live in Los Angeles 1988 has leaked.
• Single White Glove’s Heal the World video has premiered.
• MJFanGirl and The Detail have teamed up to release a new podcast called Michael Jackson Unspun. The latest episode is with Michael Bush’s assistant.
• Pez Jax’s book ‘The Story of HIStory’ is now available for pre-order, and will be officially released on July 20.
• Brice Najar has announced his new book, ‘Blood on the Dance Floor: Let’s Make HIStory in the Mix’.
• Dwayne Swingler, Neverland Valley Ranch supervisor has released a book.
• MJ Memorial Day Live happened on Facebook on June 25th, hosted by the King of Pop Events group. It featured interviews with Travis Payne, Jimmy Locust, Steven Paul Whitsitt and others. You can see the whole series of interviews here
• New Facebook group for online events and fan chat: Michael Jackson Book Club.
• MJ One is currently set to re-open in Las Vegas in early August. Meanwhile, Cirque du Soleil is over $1 billion in debt, and is seeking bankruptcy protection. They have laid off 3,500 employees, including Blue Man Group. However, all their non-touring shows plan to re-open as soon as they are allowed to do so.
• Marcos Cabota’s Sonic Fantasy documentary gets a trailer.
• Archival interviews of Michael Jackson’s children have been released on YouTube channel ‘Jacksonology‘, apparently created for a cancelled documentary about MJ.
• Soundflowers’ docuseries, ‘Unfiltered: Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn’, streaming on Facebook through the summer. Plus, their debut EP has been released.
• Sia and Paris drama.
• Danny Wu’s Square One has been released on Amazon Prime.
• Charles Thomson has released his first podcast, called Shoebury’s Lost Boys, which details his decade long investigation into one of Britain’s most serious child sex abuse allegations cover-ups.
• Robson and Safechuck trial update. As predicted, Dan Reed was there filming.
• The Jacksons’ video for Can You Feel It gets released on YouTube, as well as Michael Jackson’s HIStory teaser.
• Original versions of some 2007 Ebony photoshoot pics have leaked.
• ?uestlove has streamed three massive Jackson family DJ experiences here, here and here. Full “Quarantine Live DJ Sets” playlist available here.
• John Cameron is about to release his latest episode of #JCsMusicology, which will focus on the Off The Wall era.
• Brad Sundberg has shared his ‘7 Songs, 7 Stories’ series on YouTube as a way to honour ‘MJ Week’ during COVID-19 restrictions.
• So…it’s been a bit leaky lately. See this channel.
• HIStory25 got the Dangerous25 treatment.

Additional Link
• Damien’s website.
• Damien’s excellent book, Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault.

Sponsors
• Audible – Great audiobooks. Great a free one-month trial (including one free audiobook) and help support the podcast by using our custom MJCast promo link.
• The MJCast’s official shop. Support The MJCast and Michael Jackson all at the same time by buying some of our merchandise.

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If you have feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.com. Stay BAD!

118: Steven Paul Whitsitt Special

Steven Paul Whitsitt joins host Jamon Bull (and launches The MJCast’s #HIStory25 celebration) for a deep-dive discussion about Steven’s incredible experience as the King of Pop’s personal photographer. Growing up near Detroit, the music of Motown had a huge influence on Steven’s life from an early age and shaped his career as a photographer and photojournalist. He has shot album covers, music video stills, and concerts for many iconic musicians, including, Steve Miller, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band and Willie Nelson. Steven has also published his work in a wide range of internationally well-known magazines. But his most memorable music industry experience was as Michael Jackson’s personal photographer. During their years working together, he shot publicity portraits and stills for the “Scream, “Childhood” and “You Are Not Alone” videos, as well as single covers. Michael entrusted Steven to work with him on capturing a range of events, including private moments. Plus, The Official Michael Jackson Opus features Steven’s photography.

The guys discuss how Steven got into photography, how he came to work with Jackson, what it was like during the HIStory studio sessions and the “Scream” video shoot, as well as Jackson’s personal photography preferences, Steven’s insights into Jackson as a person, and much, much more.

Additional Links
• Steven Paul Whitsitt’s main website, fashion website, Facebook, and Instagram.
• Selected, professional-quality Michael Jackson photography available for a limited time through Steven’s online shop, in collaboration with MJ Music Day. Please note: These photos are formatted for European standard sizing. If you are based anywhere other than Europe and are interested in purchasing a photo, contact Steven in advance so that he can adjust the print size.

Ad Breaks
• Audible – Great audiobooks.
• The MJCast’s official shop. Support The MJCast and Michael Jackson all at the same time by buying some of our merchandise.

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If you have feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.com. Stay BAD!

117: Howard Bloom Special

Howard Bloom joins host Elise Capron for her first solo episode to discuss his time working as Michael Jackson’s publicist in the 1980’s, during the Victory era. Though Bloom grew up as full-blown science nerd who knew nothing about popular music, he fell into the music world through magazine publishing, and, in 1976, founded what would become one of the biggest PR firms in the music industry during the ’70s and ’80s. He helped build or sustain the careers of more than 100 rock and roll icons, including Prince, Bob Marley, Joan Jett, ZZ Top, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, and, of course, Michael Jackson.

Howard and Elise discuss his fascinating and unusual journey into music, how he came to work with the Jackson family, and dig deep into Howard’s philosophies around what made Michael Jackson so seemingly magical—a concept Howard describes as “finding the gods within”. They also chat about Howard’s new book, which goes even further into his many great stories, Einstein, Michael Jackson, & Me: A Search for Soul in the Power Pits of Rock and Roll.

Additional Links
• Howard Bloom’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube channel.
• Buy Howard’s new book here.

Ad Breaks
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• The MJCast’s official shop. Support The MJCast and Michael Jackson all at the same time by buying some of our merchandise.

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If you have feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.com. Keep Michaeling!

116: We’re All Experts in the Rearview Mirror

Damien Shields returns to The MJCast as a guest host, joining Jamon for our first regular news and discussion episode of Season 6! Damien is a long-time Friend of the Show, author, and Cascio tracks expert. The fellas catch up on loads of updates in the world of Michael Jackson, including the Estate’s #HealTheWorld2020 video, newly leaked MJ vocal snippets, an awkward snafu by Teddy Riley, developments around Dan Reed, good news for Tom Mesereau, a beautiful film-tribute to Michael Jackson’s artistic legacy, and more. Plus, Jamon and Damien ask the question: Could HIStory 25 happen?

Discussion Topics
• Cirque du Soleil temporarily suspends MJOne due to COVID-19.
•  French documentary Lettre d’amour à Michael Jackson premieres on YouTube.
• Teddy Riley claims that a previously released vocal cover of the song Joy, sung by MJ vocal impersonator Marcus Williams, is actually a demo he recorded with Michael.
• Michael Jackson’s Privacy acapella has leaked.
• Rodney Jerkins allegedly plays an unreleased Michael Jackson snippet called Rampage during a live stream event.
• Previously unreleased footage of Michael Jackson surfaces at gottahaverockandroll.com
• Dan Reed successfully gains access to film future court proceedings involving Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
• Tom Mesereau is now working as Special Counsel for John Branca, co-executor of the Michael Jackson estate.
• So #HealTheWorld2020 happened.
• Is HIStory 25 going to be a thing?

Additional Links
• Damien’s Twitter page, website, and book, Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault.
• Dan Villalobos’ website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Orbits EP on Apple Music and Spotify.

Ad Breaks
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If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.comStay BAD!

115: Kevin Dorsey Special

Welcome to Season Six of the The MJCast! In this special episode, Jamon Bull puts the focus back on the music with an interview featuring Kevin Dorsey, who worked with Michael Jackson for twenty-five years as his Vocal Director, Assistant Music Director and one of his background vocalists. In addition to lots of positive stories, we deep dive on two of the most topical issues amongst fans, Michael’s ever increasing reliance on lip syncing and the mysterious months leading up to his death. This is a topic Kevin is particularly well placed to speak on as he was suddenly and inexplicably let go by This Is It’s tour promoters after completing the task of assembling the live band. Kevin also goes into detail about his early career, how he initially came to work with the King of Pop and what is was like to tour together.

The MJCast team is excited for the season to come. Thank you for joining us!

Additional Links
• Kevin Dorsey’s Facebook page

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Crack Corn – Ridiculously delicious puff corn
The MJCast Shop

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If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.comKeep Michaeling!

114: Season Five Mixtape

Are you ready to party? It’s that time of year when The MJCast gives their listeners a special treat: the fourth annual MJCast mixtape! This curated collection of tunes is made up of our favourite Michael Jackson and Jackson Family songs from Season Five. While the team is on their break before launching the next season, take a moment to turn up your speakers and celebrate the artistry of the King of Pop. Enjoy!

Tracklist
1. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (Nick Party People Remix)
2. Michael Jackson – Remember the Time (Nick* Deep Mix)
3. Michael Jackson – Take Me Back (Regrooved by Parker)
4. Michael Jackson – Another Part of Me (Regrooved Fire Remix)
5. The Jacksons – Walk Right Now (Nick* Redux)
6. Jackson 5 – I’ll Be There (DJ Hasebe Remix)
7. Taryll Jackson – Make You Mine, available on Apple Music
8. Jaafar Jackson – Got Me Singing
9. Michael Jackson – Privacy (Reconstructed NOT GUILTY Remix)
10. Michael Jackson – Tabloid Junkie (Michael Jackson vs. Will Smith Mix)
11. Janet Jackson – Son of a Gun (P. Diddy Explicit Radio Remix)
12. Michael Trapson – F*ck Wade
13. Omer Bhatti – Life Is a Movie
14. Dane Thomson – Smooth Criminal (Instrumental Acoustic Cover)
15. The Jacksons – Lovely One (Groovefunkel Remix)
16. Michael Jackson – Thriller 35th Anniversary (SWG Remastered Extended Mix)
17. Michael Jackson – Beat It (Mute Mutant Remix)
18. Michael Jackson – Why You Wanna Trip On Me (DJ MGR Trip On Mix)
19. Janet Jackson – Escapade (Nick* Maui Sunset Mix)
20. Michael Jackson – Man In the Mirror (30th Anniversary (SWG Extended Mix Overture)

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If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback on the show, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.comStay BAD!

113: Season Five Christmas Special

It’s that time of year when Jamon, Q and Elise come together to celebrate the holidays and reflect on the year that was…it’s The MJCast’s annual Christmas Special!

The team wraps up Season Five (a season filled-to-the-brim with major highs and lows) with discussion of developments in the world of Michael Jackson, including updates on the MJ biopic, the Estate’s 2020 MJ Broadway musical, as well as a bizarre and potentially very negative MJ-inspired musical told from the perspective of his glove, and much more. The MJCast Correspondents also chime in with news on charity efforts, Janet Jackson, the Jackson family, and more.

It’s been a whirlwind year, and a tough one for many in the worldwide Jackson fan community. And yet, as the trio revisits clips from Season Five Specials and reflects on the past year, it is clear that this has also been The MJCast’s best season ever, with incredible guests, and a real sense of love and community.

This is Q’s final episode as a regular host of The MJCast. Q has been integral to the identity of the show since its inception, and he will be missed. Jamon and Elise send their love and thanks for all of Q’s contributions as well as his friendship. And not to worry, listeners: Q will appear on The MJCast in the future, just less regularly. There will be Q-rants to come in 2020 and beyond!

This is Q’s final episode as a regular host of The MJCast. Q has been integral to the identity of the show since its inception, and he will be missed. Jamon and Elise send their love and thanks for all of Q’s contributions as well as his friendship. And not to worry, listeners: Q will appear on The MJCast in the future, just less regularly. There will be Q-rants to come in 2020 and beyond!

We want to thank our listeners for all your support throughout the year and hope that you enjoy our episodes coming up in Season 6! Happy holidays, #MJFam!

News
• A Michael Jackson biopic is reportedly in the works, from Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King.
• A very strange stage musical, For the Love of the Glove, supposedly based on Jackson’s life, is opening in Los Angeles in January.
• Ephraim Sykes has been cast in the MJ role for the upcoming Broadway show, “MJ: The Musical.” (Skykes’ recent interview in Rolling Stone.)
• The French MJ fan lawsuit against ‘Leaving Neverland’ has been postponed due to strikes.
• The Game recalls the time when Michael Jackson called him to work on a collaboration with 50 Cent.
• The MJ Estate settles with Disney over ‘The Last Days of Michael Jackson’.

Season Five Highlights
• Episode 097 – Bill Whitfield Special
• Episode 100 – Brad Buxer Special
Episode 101 – Taryll Jackson Special
Episode 103 – Vindication Day Special with Larry Nimmer
Episode 104 – June 25th Special with Jenny Winings
Episode 107 – Allan ‘Big Al’ Scanlan Special
Episode 109 – Michael Trapson Special
Episode 110 – Thriller Night Special with Paul Black and Adam Green

Main Discussion Topic
• A year in review.
• The MJCast’s official interview with Q, as he reflects on five seasons as co-host.
• What’s to come in Season 6.

Finds of the Week
• Jamon – New rehearsal footage from MJ’s 30th Anniversary concert.
• Q – ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ gets a brand new official video.
• Elise – MJ-inspired art by Miguel Wilson, including a very cool Thriller shirt available for sale.

Correspondent Appearances
Steven Hodges of MJFFC (Charity Correspondent)
Janneke van der Linden of Jackson Source (Jackson family Correspondent)
Courtney and Kam of Janet Today, Janet Tomorrow, Janet Forever podcast (Janet Jackson Correspondent)
Charles Thomson (Legal Correspondent)

Ads & Music Breaks
Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (Nick Party People Remix)
Michael Jackson – Another Part of Me (Regrooved Fire Remix)
Michael Jackson – BEATiCURE (The King of artPOP by Robin Skouteris)

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If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.com. Michael On!

112: Oiling Lanes

The holidays are upon us, which means it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and an excellent time to hang out with MJ mates! In this regular episode, Q and Jamon have invited some of their friends on board for a good ol’ MJ fan hangout.

Marni Cochrane, Dane Thomson, Dr. Raj Zaman, and Bjørn Hannibal join the guys for a discussion about everyone’s fan stories, how they have coped through the events of this year, how Michael has impacted and changed their lives, and how they think Michael should be remembered.

What’s better than hanging out with MJ mates and sharing great MJ moments and memories? The MJCast hopes you enjoy this ultimate fan chat!

Participants
• Q
• Jamon
• Marni – Jamon’s long time MJ friend and Friend of the Show, who is a lifelong fan who became obsessed while watching the video for “The Way You Make Me Feel” in ’87. She got involved in the online MJ community in 2006, became a moderator on MJNO in 2007, and created Max Jax in 2008 with 5 fans from the UK. She even won an award for “the official #1 Fan Australia of Michael Jackson” in 2008! Marni is always attending MJ events and saw The Jacksons twice this past year, as well as seeing Janet Jackson once.
• Dane Thomson – Jamon’s recent MJ mate has been a Michael Jackson fan since the age of 4, and is now a musician and fellow whistleblower of the infamous “Cascio tracks”.
• Dr. Raj Zaman – Q’s local fan friend, who has been a lifelong MJ fan since watching a bootleg VHS copy of the “BAD Tour In Yokohama”. He is currently training to be a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon after being directly inspired by Michael’s humanitarian work to make a positive difference in the world.

Main Discussion Topic
• MJ mates, new and old hangout! Fan stories, coping with Leaving Neverland fallout, how MJ has inspired our lives, and reflections on how Michael should be remembered.

Finds of the Week
• Jamon – Michael Jackson MTV 1995 early rehearsals
• Q – Best Selling Music Artists 1969-2019
• Dane – @christophervg3 Instagram account
• Marni – CrowdDJ app,which lets you choose your favourite songs in your favourite places. Available in the Apple App Store, and Google Play Store.
• Raj – Godfrey videos on Michael Jackson. Here, here, here, here and here.
• Bjørn – Thriller x Kali Kali Aankhen, Swara Dance Bollywood Remix

Additional Links
• Marni’s Instagram
• Dane Thomson’s Instagram and Twitter
• Dr. Raj Zaman’s Instagram and Twitter
• Bjørn Hannibal’s Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and his I Magiens Fodspor podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Ad & Music Breaks
Dane Thomson – Smooth Criminal (Instrumental Acoustic Cover)
Michael Jackson – Take Me Back (Regrooved by Parker)
Dane Thomson – I’ll Be There (Instrumental Acoustic Cover)

Connect with Us
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If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.comKeep Michaeling!

111: It’s Not a Hangover

In this regular episode, Jamon and Q are joined by Friend of the Show Jason Garcia, co-host of MJRadio, the Spanish-language Michael Jackson podcast. It’s been a busy fall, and the trio has lots of news to discuss related to Michael Jackson and the Jackson family. The guys chat about an upcoming documentary focused on MJ’s artistic legacy, next summer’s launch of the official Michael Jackson musical, the Estate’s (misguided) release of a 10th Anniversary This Is It package, the HBO documentary about the Apollo Theatre, and more. For their main topic, Jamon and Q tell discuss seeing Janet Jackson live in Australia, and then have some big news to announce about changes at the The MJCast next season.

This episode also includes updates from The MJCast correspondents Charles Thomson (Legal Correspondent) and Janneke van der Linden (Jackson Family Correspondent).

Follow Up
• MJRadio
• Square One happened

News
• Another MJ documentary is on the way, this one focused on his artistic legacy.
• Elton John calls Michael Jackson ‘mentally ill’ and a ‘disturbing person’ in his new book.
• Lil Kim sort-of samples MJ in her new single.
• The official Michael Jackson musical has a new name (“MJ The Musical”) and will open July 6th at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York.
• The Michael Jackson Estate and Sony Music release their first product since Leaving Neverland, a 10th anniversary edition of This Is It.
• Michael Jackson was, yet again, the top earning dead celebrity of 2019.
• HBO’s “The Apollo” documentary excludes the Jackson 5 as a significant part of the venue’s history.

Main Discussion Topic
• Q and Jamon’s Janet experiences!
• Next steps for The MJCast.

Additional Links
• MJRadio on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

Ad & Music Breaks
• The Jacksons – Your Ways (Groovefunkel Remix)
• Janet Jackson – Escapade (Nick* Maui Sunset Mix)
• Michael Jackson – Beat It (Mute Mutant Remix)

Correspondent Appearances
• Charles Thomson (Legal Correspondent)
• Janneke van der Linden of Jackson Source (Jackson Family Correspondent)

Connect with Us
• TheMJCast.com
• Facebook
• Twitter
• Instagram
• YouTube

If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.comStay BAD!

Theater Review: “Never Ever Land” Explores the Michael Jackson Allegations Through a Problematic Lens

On October 27, 2019, in Los Angeles, I attended the final performance of the world premiere staging of the play “Never Ever Land”, written by Rider Strong, directed by Michael A. Shepperd, and produced by Andrew Carlberg. Several Michael Jackson fan community members were in attendance, including Charles Thomson (investigative reporter and Legal Correspondent for The MJCast), Angela Kande, “Square One” documentary creator Danny Wu, and others.

In the play’s press release, it is described as offering “a new perspective on one of the most notorious trials of all time, as well as our culture’s obsession with celebrity.” I was compelled by this, and very curious about how they would approach this issue, and what stance they would take regarding Michael Jackson.

While the play is based on the 1993 Jackson allegations, and the characters are representative of the members of the Chandler family, I want to emphasize that this is a fictional storyline. The facts about the family and the sequence of events are intentionally distorted. This is done, I assume, for the sake of artistic freedom, and perhaps also as protection from criticisms around accuracy–or lawsuits. And also because, ultimately, this play is not truly about Michael Jackson. (Except that it is also completely about him. I will explain my problems with this contradiction later.)

The show is, according to promotional materials, about the lasting effects on one family who has been “seduced by fame and greed”. Michael Jackson’s name is not uttered once through the entire production, though all transitional scenes use slightly warped, MIDI-style versions of Jackson songs, and he is referred to as “the White Whale” several times.

Looking at this play purely from a production standpoint, it has some merits: I found the acting to be powerful, and there was something compelling about the idea of a long-term implosion of family and identity because of the choices of the parents. However, I did not find the characters particularly sympathetic, even as the audience is supposed to connect with the trauma of the adult-version of the character based on Jordan Chandler, named here “Jacob Gable”.

The story alternates between two parallel timelines: We are taken back and forth between the ‘90s and a contemporary storyline set in 2012. I felt hopeful during the first half of the production, which focuses on how the parents fall into the world of celebrity. While they are pushing one son, “Tim”, to be in commercials and criticizing him for being overweight, they are pushing the other, “Jacob”, to secure a friendship with the unnamed, famous entertainer who never had a childhood. The mother is also trying to establish her own acting career, while the controlling, heavy-drinking, rage-filled dentist father is peddling his screenplay.

Opening the play, and woven throughout it, is the 2012 story about the adult Tim, who is trying to get a job with a tabloid journalism company, which is based on TMZ. He claims that he has absolute proof that his brother lied about the allegations. As a Jackson fan, this is, of course, attention-grabbing. It seemed that the play was moving in the direction of casting doubt on the allegations as a whole.

However, the second half of the play takes a very different turn. It veers from the allegations (and avoids making any statement at all about them, which will frustrate most fans) and puts complete focus on how the family has been damaged. It becomes clear that Tim is selling his brother’s secrets as a means to have a career and, finally, a life of his own. Jacob, the character based on Jordan Chandler, clearly has massive personal problems as an adult, but the play leaves the audience in the dark about the source of his trauma. And, ultimately, Tim reveals that there may not be any deep, dark secret, after all.

Naturally, I wanted to understand the production’s stance on the allegations. That was not to be. And I can accept that. Art is, after all, about exploring ideas, evoking emotion, and encouraging discussion. It is certainly not obligated to give its audience a clear answer or opinion on any particular topic. That said, I felt abandoned by the second half of the play, and left adrift, with no real understanding of what I should be taking away from the story, especially after the high-stakes set-up in the first half. Perhaps if I had connected more with the characters, it would have been more effective. In that scenario, I can envision an ending in which I would have understood the legacy of damage set off by greedy parents and bad decisions, and could have even accepted that the production chooses to leave its representation of the allegations so ambiguous. Yet, as is, the story fizzles into nothing, and seems to lose its purpose.

But here are my two primary problems with the play:

(1) I dislike the fact that this production directly exploits Michael Jackson, using his traumatic experience for its own gains, while simultaneously refusing to comment on that situation. I simply don’t think that is right. The playwright, Rider Strong, states that this is “the story of how one family was seduced by fame and greed”—but what does that mean, in this context? What is Strong really trying to say here? Ultimately, this just feels like Jackson being used all over again.

(2) Playwright Strong also comments: “I wondered what it’s like to be known as the victim in a ridiculously famous lawsuit, especially if most people think you lied.” Common, mainstream (and uninformed) perception is that Michael Jackson settled in the ‘90s because he was guilty. Where is this idea coming from that most people think that Chandler lied? And does this mean that the underlying message of the play is really that Jackson was guilty, and the Chandler was, essentially, a double-victim? I’m left perplexed by this, and uncomfortable.

In the end, the simple truth is that I don’t know what to make of this play. It acts as if it wants to make a big statement, without making that statement. Really, I feel that this production is about the playwright’s own childhood. Strong was a child star in the ‘90s, best known for his role on “Boy Meets World”. I completely understand that he would want to explore the effects of that warped coming-of-age experience. That makes sense. But using Jackson as a vehicle is not appropriate or merited, in my view. It adds to the exact problem Strong claims he is addressing. And that simply feels wrong.

This world premiere run of “Never Ever Land” has ended, but you can learn more, including information about possible future performances here.

Article by Elise Capron.