REVIEW: MJ the Musical

MJ the Musical is where the magic of the “King of Pop” comes alive on stage. MJ is a cross-between an impersonator show and a biopic with glimpses of Michael Jackson’s life spanning most of his career.

The year is 1992, and Michael is in the midst of rehearsals for his Dangerous World Tour. The room was filled with anticipation as fans await the spectacle that only MJ can deliver. MJ (played at various ages by Jamal Fields-Green, Brandon Lee Harris and Josiah Benson) had big shoes to fill. They collectively provided a satisfying performance, however, it is clear that there is one and only Michael Jackson.

The show rewinds to the Motown era, where young Michael, alongside his talented siblings, wowed audiences as part of the Jackson 5. His voice catapulted him into stardom. The musical captures those early days—the innocence, the harmonies, and the dreams that would shape his destiny.

We then fast-forward to the late ’70s in which Michael breaks free from the group, embarking on a solo career that would redefine pop music. We witness the making of Off the WallThriller, and Bad. Quincy Jones, the maestro behind the scenes, collaborates with Michael to create chart-topping hits. The moonwalk becomes synonymous with his name and never gets old as it recurs throughout the choreography.

MJ the Musical isn’t just about the hits; it attempts to provide us with a glimpse of the man behind the glove. We peek into Michael’s creative process—the late-night studio sessions, the moonlit dance rehearsals, and the relentless pursuit of perfection. His vulnerability shines through as he battles inner demons and strives to connect with a world hungry for his magic. That said, I feel the show portrayed Michael as one-dimensional. He’s a tortured, perfectionist and a brilliant artist, and nothing deeper regarding his personality is conveyed. MJ feels like a character instead of a human.

The musical acknowledges the whispers that followed Michael throughout his life. The rumors—the eccentricities, the mysterious persona—find their place in the narrative but the most significant rumor, that of abuse, is the pink elephant in the room that goes unmentioned. To completely ignore these allegations but bring so much attention to other rumors felt dishonest and too biased.

Over 25 of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits are interjected into the story with flash costumes, lighting and thrilling choreography. From the infectious groove of “Billie Jean” to the soul-stirring anthem “Earth Song,” the audience was hyped. When the beat drops for “They Don’t Care About Us,” you can’t help but get goosebumps. one would expect, the soundtrack is what really carries this show. With all of the historical context added between songs, the musical felt incredibly long and I found myself impatiently waiting for the music.

It’s undoubted that Michael Jackson’s legacy lives on—a testament to his artistry, resilience, and impact. His music transcends generations, and his moonwalk remains etched in our collective memory. The thrills in MJ are big and easily made up for the story portion of the show that I could have done without. Whether or not this show will resonate with you will likely be determined on one sole factor and that is whether you appreciate his music.

MJ the Musical is at the Orpehum Theatre in Minneapolis through May 26, 2024. Tickets start at $50.


Student/educator rush will be available for all performances of MJ:
– $40 cash only
– 2 ticket limit per valid student/educator ID
– Starts 2 hours prior to show in person at the Orpheum Theatre
– Line forms outside the theatre
– Subject to availability

photo by Matthew Murphy