Myles Frost as Michael Jackson in ‘MJ’ on Broadway
Then came college. He started at Belmont University, a Christian institution in Nashville, where he took a break from performance to study music technology. After two years, he transferred to Bowie State University, a historically black university in Maryland; he left this school for “MJ”.
“When someone says you have the opportunity to play Michael Jackson, it’s not something you just ignore,” Frost said.
Once he got the job, the real work began. The production took him to Los Angeles to spend several weeks studying with Rich and Tone Talauega, two brothers who had danced with Jackson. He started singing lessons. And he was vaccinated against the coronavirus – a requirement for working on Broadway.
He scrutinized interviews with Jackson, noting how he held his hands, which way he crossed his legs, what he did with his eyes when someone said something that made him feel uncomfortable. And he watched hours and hours of tour video – even now, before every performance, he screens the “Bad” tour in his dressing room. (Why ‘Bad’? ‘Because it’s the best tour, for me,’ he said. ‘Wembley 88! I’m doing my best to match his energy.’)
Among the hardest things to learn: breath control. Also: the side glide, a dance step associated with Jackson. “You can make it very, very cool,” Frost said. “But it was definitely a challenge.”
His run on the show has been, like this Broadway season, bumpy. In mid-December, just weeks after previews began, he fell ill with the coronavirus. He was absent from the show for 10 days. Then in February, he fractured a toe on his right foot and was off the show for a few more weeks; it turned out that Frost had a long second toe that caused stress while he walked on the moon. (The show ended up restructuring its shoes to ease the pressure.) This month, he contracted the coronavirus for a second time and missed another round of performances.
But now he’s happily back at the Neil Simon Theater, in a main box that Frost had painted gray (“it matches my aesthetic”), with a black carpet and a red sofa. He keeps it remarkably bare – nothing but a drawing sent in by a young fan – just clothes racks and a TV. And eight times a week, he slowly applies his makeup and layers his costume as he embraces the transition from Myles to Michael. “I see the fruits of my labor – people say, ‘I felt like I was watching Michael Jackson,'” he said. “That’s all I can ask for as an artist – that people walk away with something warm and magical.”