On the weekend of March 9-10 of 2019 my brother and sister in law visited Las Vegas and chose to stay at the Stratosphere. I hadn't seen a Las Vegas show in a while and saw that a Michael Jackson tribute show was playing at the Stratosphere. I've been disappointed by many impersonator shows as well as all shows in the low end of the price range, which MJ Live was, so my expectations were not high. However, I wanted to show my guests something fun and Vegas like, so hoped for the best. I was very pleasantly surprised and can honestly say this was one of the best impersonator shows I've ever seen. Read on for more details.
Let me apologize in advance that I am not a huge fan of Michael Jackson's music. I have nothing against it, but there are only a few MJ songs I would stop and listen to if flipping around the radio. I've never owned any MJ music, although I think Billy Jean is on one of my miscellaneous tapes of music I recorded from KTYD in Santa Barbara back in my college days.
Before going further, let me say that I've lived in Las Vegas for 18 years now and have seen some pretty awful shows. Some were so bad that I walked out. The worst type of show, in my opinion, is just dancing to prerecorded music. Of course, they will never market themselves that way. If you go to any show that focuses on music, I would insist on a live band and no lip-synching. Almost every topless show will not satisfy these requirements, just to warn you. Sadly, the good topless shows like Folies Bergere are no more.
In contrast to the usual lip syncing shows, MJ Live has a three-piece band as well as about eight back-up dancers. Unlike the many tourist trap shows in Vegas, MJ Live was very well done and all involved seemed to really care about the quality. I think the real Michael Jackson himself would have been honored.
In the show, the cast go through various time eras in Michael Jackson's career, from the Jackson 5, the Thriller album, and his later material. There are many costume changes while the audience was kept entertained with two large video screens, adding imagery reminiscent of the 70's and 80's, which enhanced the experience. However, it is Santana Jackson, who plays Michael Jackson, who truly shines.
I am a math nerd, so not very good at writing concert reviews, but I'll say that Santana brought a love and energy to Michael Jackson's music that is hard to describe. However, he still made it his own show. There was a lot of audience interaction and joking around that made it a personal experience. I don't blame Santana for creating some distance there, given all the controversy about Jackson's private life. None of that was even touched on in the show, thankfully. The way I would put it is the show celebrated the music of Michael Jackson as opposed to the man himself.
At the time of this writing, the show played at 7PM most nights. I think there is another performer, besides Santana Jackson, who sometimes plays the role of Michael, who I can't comment on. Tickets start at $57.50, plus taxes and whatever fees they add. There is a 25% discount for hotel guests. The showroom itself is not that big so everybody will be close enough to get a good view.
After the show, Santana greeted guests and posed for photos with a professional photographer. I normally don't do this, but I greeted Santana and told him I thought the show was outstanding and the best impersonation show I've ever seen. He thanked me for the compliment and remarked, "I try," in a high-pitched Michael Jackson voice.
In closing, MJ Live was one of the best tribute shows I've ever seen. The only other I can think of to compare is Million Dollar Quartet, which, sadly, has ended its run.