‘The whole world is a stage’
As an ardent reader of the Bible, Michael Joseph Jackson was fascinated by Jesus and his apostles. He felt a kinship with them because just like them, he was in the spotlight up until the time of his death–and even beyond. Under a different set of circumstances, the apostles, too, were in a spotlight that eventually led to some of their deaths. “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession,” writes the apostle Paul, “like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.” (1 Co 4:9, New International Version) The ancient Greek word for “display” used here is theatron, from which we get our English word “theater.” The Latin equivalent is spectaculum, from which the English word “spectacular” is derived.
The King of Pop, A “Hypocrite”!: Before you label me a traitorous Judas since I charge Michael with being a “hypocrite,” let me remind you that the Moonwalking Maestro starred as the scarecrow in the hit musical The Wiz (1978). As such, he was what the ancient Greeks–famous for their stage plays–called a hypokrites (English, “hypocrite”). Yes, Michael was an ‘actor on the big stage,’ along with fellow hypocrites (that is, actors) Lena Horne, Diana Ross, Ted Ross, and Nipsey Russell. In The Wiz, the world was Michael’s stage.
Spectaculum Sisterella!: Though Michael didn’t star in it, he had everything else to do with the hit musical, Sisterella. And, happily, it looks like a new version of it is coming to Los Angeles.
“Vegas DeLuxe has learned that the production created by Las Vegas composer and writer Larry Hart will have its world premiere in L.A. next spring. Sisterella has the distinction of being the only musical ever financed, produced and presented by the King of Pop that was not his creation. The Cinderella fairytale-themed contemporary musical garnered 12 NAACP Theater Award nominations and won eight awards, including Best Play, Best Director and Best Choreographer. It won rave reviews after premiering in L.A. When it toured Europe, fans there voted it Show of the Decade as it broke box office records.” All is not well though in this fairytale. Fans have mixed emotions that Michael’s former manager, Frank Dileo, is co-producing the new version.
When in 1996 I was invited by the Jackson family to see the original Sisterella, I remember having to be talked into going. In retrospect, I can’t believe I hesitated. It is by far the most endearing musical I have ever seen. It touched my heart in a spectacular way. I cannot begin to describe the feeling. I ended up seeing it several times there at the Pasadena Playhouse. In fact, on one occasion Michael’s mother Katherine, a few others, and I coordinated to meet up for one of the performances. We had a fantastic time! Since I lived at the time in the “Old Town” section of Pasadena, the Playhouse was practically in walking distance.
Passing Scene: During a stage play there are any number of scene changes. One scene passes and another takes its place. This transient nature of Greek and Roman plays is documented in the Bible. “The scene of this world is changing” wrote the apostle Paul. (1 Co 7:31, New World Translation) Bible commentator Albert Barnes makes these observations: “What a striking description of the changing, unstable, and unreal pageantry of this world! Now it is frivolous, splendid, gorgeous, lovely; tomorrow it is gone, and is succeeded by new actors and new scenes. Now all is busy with one set of actors; tomorrow a new company appears, and again they are succeeded by another, and all are engaged in scenes that are equally changing, vain, gorgeous, and delusive.”
The venue for Michael-related matters has changed from gargantuan stadiums to matchbox courtrooms. According to CNN, “Jury selection in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray … will begin March 24 … Judge Michael Pastor also approved television cameras in court for the trial.” Again, the world will be watching.
Michael’s Final Act?: The Fantastic Four sang The Whole World Is A Stage (1967). Although the curtain came down abruptly and prematurely on the inimitable performance of the King of Pop, this might be the last dance. Stay tuned for the next curtain call. Peace and blessing to all. Amen.