The King of Pop Comes To Life With Brilliant Performance of MJ the Musical at The Orpheum Theatre


Photo by Matthew Murphy, MurphyMade

Michael Jackson was and always will be the King of Pop. I think that’s something we can all agree on. I also think we can all agree that he was a fabulous musician and an insane dancer. Beyond that, lines start to blur. Was he a good guy? Did he do some things people said he did? Was he just a super weird guy? Honestly, none of that matters. What matters is the classic music and memorable dancing, and that’s precisely what MJ the Musical is here to remind you of.

Writing about musicals is hard. I can’t rely on the story of Michael Jackson because, well, the majority of us already know that story. I also can’t tell you all of the nitty-gritty details of the performance because, well, you should just go see it for yourself, and I would hate to spoil everything. So here I am, at the desk of my day job, wracking my brain on how to approach this review. Do I want to talk about the things the musical left out and how, although they briefly mention the controversy surrounding this private yet public figure? Do I mention how this Musical seemed to raise Michael Jackson up on a pedestal when there are definitely arguments that this man doesn’t deserve such praise?

I didn’t even know this was a musical until I got an email blast about it, but the second I opened that email, I knew I had to see this show. MJ the Musical was supposed to debut in mid-2020, but we all know how that went, and after a postponement, it finally opened in 2021. The Musical was nominated for ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album, so how did this fly under my radar for so long? Honestly, that question is moot. All I know is that from the second the lights went down in the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis until they came back up at the end of the evening, I was captivated by a performance that really made me see this true legend in a new light.

A quick background on the setting of this Musical. This is a true jukebox musical where over twenty-five of Michael Jackson’s iconic songs are woven into a storyline. The story is set as Michael prepares for his 1992 Dangerous World Tour. It features a reporter who is determined to get an in-depth story on this very private superstar, and as the musical goes on, you get to see glimpses and glimmers of Michael Jackson’s upbringing– the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Before I get into what I took away from the night (which is actually a lot deeper than I expected), let’s talk about the performance. WOW. That’s all I can really say here. Obviously, I knew that the dancing was going to be at the forefront throughout this performance, but still, the fact that this entire company seemed to embody Jackson’s signature moves with such conviction and fire left me stunned. From Jamaal Fields-Green’s (Michael Jackson) flawless moonwalk to the portion in the musical when everyone was doing the robot, I was lost in the movements happening on stage and, at times, almost felt overwhelmed and as if I was missing something as my eyes darting from performer to performer.

As much as I was stunned by the dancing, I was absolutely floored by the vocals. Again, I must point out Jamaal Fields-Green and his portrayal of the King of Pop. I never got to see Michael Jackson live, but I really felt like I was witnessing the true magic through Jamaal Fields-Green’s flawless presentation of every word of every song. Add the fact that he was dancing at the same time, and just, like I said, WOW. What I really liked about this production was that everyone seemed to be singing, and everyone had an absolutely killer voice. Even Josiah Benson and Bane Griffith (who both played “little” versions of Michael throughout the performance) stunned me with their talent.

So, what did I walk away from this absolutely stunning musical with? Honestly, it’s an appreciation for the King of Pop. Sure, I still have issues with some of the things that he may or may not have done, and I will be the first to say that he came off as a bit of a weird guy, but at the end of the day, he was his music, and I think he lived his life for his music. There were multiple times in the performance where the reporter who was trying to get her big story would try and corner MJ into giving into some of his deep, dark secrets, but he would never respond with, “Just listen to the music- everything you want to know is in the music.” There was something powerful about that statement that really hit me hard. Michael Jackson didn’t ask for the fame (at least that’s what this Musical would lead you to believe) and really just wanted the world to see and hear his music. At the same time, all of the pressure from his family and the public led to an almost perfectionist OCD that seemed to control MJ and may have been part of his unraveling. 

Michael Jackson was creative with a sense of humor and a love for his craft, but the press turned that around; they focused in on the weird, the questionable, and the controversy surrounding the King of Pop. I thought that MJ the Musical did an absolutely stellar job of bringing the spotlight back to what it should all be about– the music.