MJ – The Musical at KeyBank State Theatre

keybank state theatre mj musicalPut your dancing shoes on!! It’s time to celebrate the four-time Tony winning MJ! The Musical at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey. EXCITING TIMES! This smash hit Broadway production follows the rehearsal of the King of Pop at his 1992 Dangerous World Tour. Spotlighting twenty five of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits, this jukebox musical promises to showcase a parade of chart toppers. The amazing choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, alongside two-time Pulitzer winner playwright Lynn Nottage (“Ruined,” “Sweat”) and an incredible cast led by the one and only Elijah Rhea Johnson, will bring Michael Jackson’s unique talent to life. By blending together his iconic songs, the show explores the King of Pop’s life, controversies, and legacy. 

This is your chance of a lifetime!! Prepare to witness history unfold before your eyes at the State Theatre! This amazing nonprofit theater is guaranteed to deliver a night of timeless entertainment! Fun fact, the theater was designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb in 1921, and is regarded as one of the oldest theaters in the State of New Jersey!!

MJ Musical Tickets:

“The choreography and music are simply outstanding!” – New York City Theater

“A riveting, adrenaline rush of a show” – Washington Post

“MJ is a truly amazing show” – Stage and Cinema 

“The perfect salutation to the life of an imperfect but gifted icon” – New York Theatre Guide

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Drawing inspiration from the rehearsals for Michael Jackson’s legendary Dangerous tour, the show opens its curtains with the smash hit “Beat It”. When the track finishes, the pop star speaks with an MTV reporter who has snagged a rare interview with him. “With respect, I wanna keep this about my music,” Michael Jackson says. “Is it really possible to separate your life from your music?” she enquiries, and in response the pop star says: “Just because you read it in a magazine / Or see it on a TV screen, don’t make it factual.”

MJ! The Musical is a groundbreaking show that shines a light on the King of Pop, and his life and controversies as an American icon. The Broadway production explores Michael Jackson’s creative drive, trademark dance moves, as well as his ascent to stardom as a child pop icon, all while spotlighting over 25 of his greatest hits, including “Billie Jean,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Beat It,” and “Smooth Criminal.”

MJ! The Musical takes viewers behind the curtains as Michael Jackson preps for his 1992 Dangerous World Tour, diving into the driving force that fuels his creativity. As he rehearses with his collaborators, spectators are transported to pivotal moments that molded his legendary career. Going beyond the distinctive moves and unique sound, MJ the Musical offers an exclusive glimpse into the creative mind that propelled Michael Jackson to iconic status.

mj the musical broadway

The creative team

The creative team behind this jukebox musical features the renowned playwright Lynn Nottage as the writer, with Christopher Wheeldon taking on the roles of director and choreographer. Wheeldon explains, “The show is very much anchored in one particular moment in time. – I always bring up the fabulous movie that Spielberg made about Lincoln: You take one key moment, I suppose, in the history of someone’s life and then sort of use that as an anchor point for past storytelling and, perhaps, some kind of prophecy of what’s to come. We’ll be doing that with this story.”

Elijah Rhea Johnson takes on the lead role of Michael Jackson, while David Holcenberg oversees Musical Supervision, Orchestrations, and Arrangements. Jason Michael Webb is responsible for Musical Direction, Orchestrations, and Arrangements. 

Additional members of the creative team include: Derek Mclane (scenic design), Gareth Owen (sound design), Joe Dulude II (makeup design), Strange Cranium Billy Jay Stein (electronic music design), Natasha Katz (lighting design), Peter Nigrini (projection design), Dontee Kiehn (global associate director), Thomas Recktenwald (production stage manager), John Miller (music coordinator), Paul Tazewell (costume design), Charles Lapointe (hair and wig design), Michael Balderrama (global associate choreographer), and Rich and Tone Talauega (Michael Jackson movement).

“The majority of the story is set inside a spacious, industrial dance rehearsal studio, but throughout the musical we find ourselves repeatedly transported into Michael’s mind — his memories and his dreams. The alternating between dream sequences and reality gives us the chance to repeatedly surprise the audience,” Derek McLane said in a press release.

History and awards

Announced in 2018, MJ! The Musical had its premiere performance on 6th December 2021. Just a year later, the Broadway production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, securing victory in 4 categories, including Best Actor, Best Choreography, Best Lighting Design, and Best Sound Design. But that’s not all! The musical also snagged 13 Theatre Fans’ Choice Award nominations, 3 Drama League Award nominations, and 7 Outer Critics Circle Award nominations (with Christopher Wheeldon and Rich + Tone Talauega winning the Outstanding Choreographer award). It additionally received 7 Drama Desk Award nominations, winning in categories like Outstanding Orchestrations, Outstanding Lighting Design, and Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical, as well as getting 3 Chita Rivera Award nominations.

In 2023, the original cast recording of MJ The Musical earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Theater Album. It’s safe to say the musical has left a lasting impression!

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