Review: MJ, The Musical

Roman Banks as ‘MJ’ and the cast of the MJ First National Tour. (Photo by Matthew Murphy, MurphyMade)

MJ, the Musical
Paramount Theatre
Through December 17, 2023
Get tickets and more info here

Michael Jackson is one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century if not all time. His contribution to the American musical lexicon is amazing, with pop hits being too numerous to list. He was the first African-American musical artist to have videos shown on MTV, and broke almost every record possible for a musical artist. His life is shown in the hit musical currently playing at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre

The setting is a rehearsal studio in 1992. Michael Jackson, at the peak of his career, is getting ready to launch his “Dangerous” tour, which performs across four continents. As a documentary team shows up to record the “behind the scenes” of launching such a tour, Michael’s life and music is revealed. The fears of not being good enough hang in the air, as well as the financial requirement to put on such a huge concert tour. His story expands from being “child number seven out of nine”, surviving a strict domineering father who pushes his children to become stars. The Jackson Five becomes a smash hit, is quickly signed by Barry Gordy of Motown Records, and Michael becomes the obvious break out star. His young age sets him up for pressures and responsibilities that is reinforced by his father, until Michael becomes the leading solo artist of the century! All the hits are here from Michael’s long and illustrious musical catalogue; from Jackson Five numbers “ABC” to “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, “Black or White”, “Smooth Criminal” and even “You Can’t Win”, from Michael’s movie debut “The Wiz”. All the while, Michael is putting more and more pressure on himself to be better than he has before, and to raise the bar on all concert performances.

The first thing to note about this production is the Ensemble. Major cheers, applause and pure amazement goes out to this extremely talented group of dancers. They move like a slick, well-oiled machine in the manners of traditional (and non-traditional) dance, showing where Michael Jackson got his inspiration. This team cannot be praised enough for their extreme talent and dancing abilities.

The show is directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. It is an amazing dance show that is sure to bring a musical note of nostalgia to anyone over a certain age. It is easy to see why this show won the Tony Award for “Best Choreography”.

Roman Banks as ‘MJ’ and the cast of the MJ First National Tour. (Photo by Matthew Murphy, MurphyMade)

Devin Bowles plays several roles (as do many others in the cast) switching between “Rob” the stage manager of the Dangerous Tour, and “Joseph”, Michael’s determined father. Mr. Bowles shows the juxtaposition of both roles and plays them in different manners and styles. While the show doesn’t focus on the paternal abuse, Mr. Bowles shows the audience enough intimidation to get the point across without becoming too violent on stage.

The star of this show is obviously Roman Banks, who plays the adult Michael. Mr. Banks’ impersonation is so on point that it is more a facsimile of Michael than impersonation. His voice, mannerism and incredible control of every muscle in his body are amazing to experience. Mr. Banks brings out the softer, more intimate and conflicted emotions of Michael without losing the point of perfectionism that made him “The King of Pop”.

No matter what your personal feelings are about the life of Michael Jackson (and the show mentions the many “controversies” that followed him without allowing any of them to become to focus or detract from the focus of the show – Michael Jackson’s music), there is no doubt of the contribution to musical history that this artist made. In his short lifespan (Michael Jackson died at age 50) he broke boundaries, crossed borders, and made a musical legacy that became global. (The “Dangerous Tour” actually broke even financially; all the proceeds from the tour went to Michael’s personal charity to Help the World).

MJ, the Musical opened on Broadway on February 01, 2022. Originally nominated for 10 Tony Awards (2022) including Best Musical, the show won four, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Myles Frost) and Best Choreography (Christopher Wheeldon). MJ the Musical is still currently running on Broadway.


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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at:

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