Theater Review: FOR THE LOVE OF A GLOVE (Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan Theater in Los Angeles)

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by Marc Wheeler on January 29, 2020

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours

IF THE GLOVE FITS…

On the heels of Leaving Neverland — the jaw-dropping 2019 documentary that explores the sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson — comes the world premiere of a musical that posits a bizarre, untold story of the King of Pop. For the Love of a Glove is a ribald, lampooning satire that offers point-by-point explanations for the superstar’s early rise to power, not the least of which is his pact with space aliens. It’s an audacious work some may find of questionable taste. It’s overly-long and heavy-handed in its soapbox takedowns of racism and religion. But it’s also a cleverly constructed, uproarious oddity that feeds our collective desire for catharsis through humor. The show, in all its absurdities, is a theatrical manifestation of our collective psyche in processing the unthinkable.

Subtitled An Unauthorized Musical Fable About Michael Jackson’s Life – As Told By His Glove, For the Love of a Glove is written and directed by Julien Nitzberg, who also serves as lyricist. The show explores the first 25 years of Michael’s life, culminating in the mid-80s. It examines the abuse he endured from his father and the religious indoctrination inflicted by his mother. It moves through The Jackson 5’s Motown years and Michael’s early solo career. There are nods to future events, including allegations of child molestation that would rock the world a decade later. All of this is told using an out-of-this-world conceit: A band of space aliens who crashed into Lake Michigan offered the Jackson brothers musical talent in exchange for their blood. Yes, seriously.

One can’t help but appreciate the profound genius in staging a show of such outrageous cosmic conceit inside the intimate Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan Theater in the Center for Inquiry West — a community center for skeptics searching for answers to the universe’s biggest mysteries. Not only that, but the show utilizes realistic, life-size puppets (artists Robin Walsh and Ronald Binion are to thank for these hilarious monstrosities) operated by actors to play characters such as The Jackson 5 and Donny Osmond, as well as adorable, glove-shaped aliens that light up when they receive pleasure. Despite the work’s obvious childlike qualities, including a bright, cartoony set, it’s certainly not suited for children.

Nitzberg’s song lyrics are in the profanatory vein of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. They’re playful and irreverent, if simplistic at times, going for shock value but earning laughs. Composers Drew Erickson, Nicole Morier, and Max Townsley have created catchy melodies that often parody Jackson and Motown tunes. (Songs are sung to a track.)

The show is well-researched, and Nitzberg eventually finds ways of tying all of his “fun facts” into the plot. But these truths — like shocking religious beliefs or music biz appropriation — sometimes come across as preachy or showy rather than naturally interwoven into the story. By the second act, the musical’s conceit is no longer as fresh, reinforcing its two-and-a-half-hour length, a lot of which features songs that resemble the dialogue surrounding it. Also, narration by Thrihl-Lha, the space alien Michael wears as his iconic sparkly white glove (played by Jerry Minor), reminds us that showing is often better than telling.

As Thrihl-Lha, Minor offers an endearing Michael-esque vocal delivery, but bumbles some of his spoken narration. Also taking on Michael’s vocality is Eric B. Anthony as Michael himself, who plays the pop star’s put-on childlike innocence beautifully, and has enough dancing abilities and vocal chops to carry off the parody. Ogie Banks makes for a hardcore disciplinarian as the patriarch Joe Jackson. Daniel Mills brings down the house as a self-assured, business-savvy Berry Gordy. Suzanne Nichols provides one of the show’s best performances as Michael’s mother Katherine. In the song “Don’t Masturbate” she gospel-flails around her kids’ bedroom preaching against sins of the palm with heavenly earnestness. Justin Anthony Long makes for an endearing wonderbread Latter Day Saint, Donny Osmond. His duet with Anthony (as M.J.), “What a Delight When You Turn White,” is as provocative as it is gut-busting.

Ann Closs-Farley’s costumes for both actors and puppets are kitschy and era appropriate. Bryan Anthony and Cris Judd bring their backgrounds of dancing with the real Michael Jackson (a connection with the pop star similarly shared by producer Anthony “Tony” Jones) to their delightful parodic choreography.

Even as For the Love of a Glove skewers religious doctrines, it plays out like a holy book — The Gospel of Thrihl-Lha, if you will. In the wake of a tarnished legacy of a musical icon, the individual closest to him — literally the “glove” to his hand — tells the “truth” of how it all went down. By washing away sins with a ludicrous fable, the work knowingly winks at our need for anesthetizing fiction rather than face the truths of the “Man in the Mirror.” Superficially, sometimes a good laugh at absurdity is all we really want, and in that, Glove is a strange little alien we can lovingly befriend.

photos courtesy of For the Love of a Glove

For the Love of a Glove: An Unauthorized Musical Fable About Michael Jackson’s Life – As Told By His Glove
Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan Theater, Center For Inquiry West
2535 W. Temple Street (@ Rampart) in Echo Park
Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 5; Mon at 8
ends on March 8, 2020
for tickets ($50-$60), visit GLOVE

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Alfonso February 1, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Those puppets are hard to forget! This show was uncomfortably fun.

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Mary Williamson February 17, 2020 at 10:18 pm

After seeing this mean-spirited and pointless abomination vomited upon the Carl Sagan-Ann Druyan Theater in Los Angeles the other night, anyone else still having their soul intact upon sharing my same misfortune will likely feel as compelled to speak out immediately against its continuation anywhere, anytime — Beware! The GLOVE also does not fit anyone. There is no love. Please stop!

FTLOAG is a definite all-time low point for Los Angeles theater. Bad is simply bad, nothing more. This is that bad.

Despite that, one could not help but feel empathy for the hungry actors on stage and the other, behind the scenes, people involved in this sorry mess. One could guess they are all probably just needing the work. They did their best trying to polish Nitzberg’s turd. Unfortunately, they are all now cursed forever to have this utter embarrassment on their resumes. On the bright side, anything next will be a step up for them.

On the other hand, we soldiers of theater can only pray that Julien Nitzberg and his adolescent and poorly executed alien farce will quickly leave our Earthly orbit forever. These same best wishes extend out to any other desperate miscreants choosing to associate themselves with this oozing crap. After the cringingly stinky, geek-bro misstep I witnessed, they all best be scurrying right back into the dark and unknown holes they crawled out of. It is too shameful for print what this torturous non-production really says about the psyches of these predatory cockroaches.

Mr. Nitzberg, please don’t subject us to your masturbatory teenage wet dreams on any stage anymore. I beg you!

For The Love Of A Glove comes highly NOT recommended by this witness to its on stage massacre. Do yourself a favor and step right over it, like any other POS. For The Love Of A Glove is pure trash!

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