MJ The Musical’s Journey to Broadway

Broadway has long been the platform for stories that resonate, entertain, and inspire, and MJ The Musical is no exception. The show is a powerful reminder of the relevance and impact of Michael Jackson’s music. It’s a journey through his art, personal struggles, and the imprint he left on the world. This musical is a testament to people’s desire to understand the man behind the legend. 

Since its inception, MJ The Musical has navigated a labyrinth of creative processes, setbacks, and trials to finally have its name up in lights. Let’s take a look behind the scenes of MJ The Musical’s journey to Broadway.

Conceptualization: Crafting the Vision for MJ The Musical

The idea for MJ the Musical was born out of a desire to dive into the world of Michael Jackson and share his story through a theatrical experience. From the initial brainstorming sessions to the first drafts of the script, every step was taken with a profound respect for Jackson’s legacy and a commitment to authenticity. The goal was not to create a biography but a show that revealed the man behind the enigmatic figure.

At the helm of this project is director-choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Renowned for his unique approach to choreography, Wheeldon was the perfect choice to bring this story to life. Wheeldon’s vision for the musical goes beyond replicating Jackson’s iconic moves on stage. He sought to infuse the show with the essence of Jackson’s artistry – the passion, innovation, and sheer joy of performance. To achieve this, Wheeldon worked closely with the cast and creative team to ensure that every scene, song, and dance number resonated with the spirit of Jackson’s work.

Pre-production: Assembling the Team and Casting the Perfect Cast

The pre-production stage of MJ The Musical was a meticulous process dedicated to assembling a creative team that could bring the vision for the show to fruition. This was a crucial phase, as the right team would not only shape the narrative of the musical but also ensure that it resonated with audiences.

Each member of the creative team brought a unique perspective and set of skills to the project. Lynn Nottage wrote the book, while director Christopher Wheeldon doubled as a choreographer, a crucial role given Jackson’s iconic dance moves. Charles Lapointe, Paul Tazewell, and Joe Dulude II worked together to create the visual aspects of Michael Jackson—hair, costumes, and makeup. 

Once the creative team was in place, the next challenge was casting. The process of selecting the perfect cast, particularly the actor to portray adult Michael Jackson, was a task of immense importance. The role required not just talent but a deep understanding of Jackson’s persona, charisma, and artistry. Ultimately, the role was given to Myles Frost, who displayed not only the ability to master Jackson’s vocal and dance styles but also the capacity to convey the complex layers of his personality.

The casting process didn’t stop at the lead role. Each member of the ensemble was chosen with the same level of care, ensuring that the cast as a whole could deliver a performance that was powerful, authentic, and true to the spirit of Jackson’s music.

Production Process: Overcoming the Challenges

The production process of MJ The Musical started with workshops and rehearsals, each playing a pivotal role in shaping the final product. These critical stages provided the cast and creative team with the opportunity to delve deeper into the material, refining the narrative and performances.

The path to Broadway for MJ The Musical was marked by unexpected twists and turns. The show was initially slated for a pre-Broadway run in Chicago, starting October 29, 2019. However, the much-anticipated Chicago run was ultimately canceled due to writers’ strikes. 

If the cancellation of the Chicago run was a curveball, what followed was an even bigger challenge. The Broadway premiere, initially scheduled for the summer of 2020, was abruptly halted due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The world of live theatre was put on an indefinite pause, and MJ The Musical, like many other productions, was left in limbo. The pause was a time of uncertainty, but it was also a period of resilience and adaptation. The cast and crew stayed connected and committed, keeping the spirit of the show alive even in the face of adversity.

MJ The Musical’s Journey Post Broadway Debut: Reviews, Reception and the Current Star

Finally debuting on Broadway on February 1st, 2022, MJ The Musical captivated audiences with its performances and narrative, marking a triumphant end to its challenging journey. The show, with its blend of music, dance, and storytelling, struck a chord with audiences, offering a fun experience that celebrated Michael Jackson’s life and legacy.

Reviews of the show praised the production, with Isha Mayer stating that the show did “justice in terms of the storyline based on [Michael Jackson’s] life events before the 1992 tour” in his review for Elle India. Critics also lauded the musical’s choreography as “compelling” and praised the cast, highlighting Apollo Levine, who plays both Michael Jackson’s show manager Rob, and his father, Joseph, Tavon Olds-Sample, who plays the middle Michael, and Ayana Jackson as Jackson’s mother Katherine. Audience reception mirrored this enthusiasm, with many praising the show’s energy and skillful cast performances.

The current star of MJ The Musical, Elijah Rhea Johnson, earned particular praise for his portrayal of Michael Jackson. Johnson, stepping into the role after Myles Frost, brought a unique blend of charisma, vulnerability, and talent to his performance. Critics praised him as “the perfect pick as the leading man of the musical” who would make Michael Jackson himself proud. 

Despite the various challenges and setbacks faced during its journey to Broadway, MJ The Musical has proven to be a testament to the enduring appeal of Michael Jackson’s music and the resilience of live theatre. The show continues to enthrall audiences, offering them a chance to engage with the life and legacy of the King of Pop in a new and exciting way.

To truly appreciate the magic of MJ The Musical, you have to experience it firsthand. Whether you’re a die-hard Michael Jackson fan or simply someone who loves a good show, there’s something for everyone in this production. From performances to the visual design and the iconic music, MJ The Musical promises an experience that is as unforgettable as the man it celebrates.