Michael Jackson musical star: This role is a ‘dream come true’

Dec 14, 2023, 5:15 PM

michael jackson musical...

A sign for MJ: the Musical adorns the outside of a building. (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

(Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

As the Tony award-winning production “MJ: the Musical” plays at Seattle’s Paramount Theater, its star talks about what it’s like to play Michael Jackson, the talented yet controversial icon.

Roman Banks told KIRO Newsradio that portraying Jackson “is very much a dream come true.” Banks said his first memory of Jackson’s music was as a child.

“I believe I was five and Rockin’ Robin was a song that me and my family loved,” Banks said.

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He said his mom played a lot of music from “The Jackson 5,” a family pop band formed in 1964 that featured a young Michael Jackson along with four of his brothers.

“We just loved the energy of the music,” Banks said. “We loved the positivity of the music.”

Jackson’s later solo career would earn him more than a dozen Grammy Awards, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and more than 1 billion record sales worldwide. Banks said Jackson also broke down barriers for African-American audiences.

All that could make portraying Jackson, particularly in a musical, intimidating. But Banks said he’s not trying to be an exact copy of Jackson. Instead, he’s trying to give the audience a taste of what it would be like to be in a room with the “King of Pop.”

“I try to embody Michael,” Banks said. “I don’t ever want to do anything for the sake of mimicry or impersonating [him] because, ultimately, my goal is just to capture his essence.”

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MJ: the Musical is set during two days of Jackson’s “Dangerous Tour” — a 17-month tour that stretched from 1992 to 1993. The musical does not dwell on Jackson’s personal eccentricities or allegations of child sex abuse that surfaced largely after that tour.

“You know my goal is to tell the truest version of this story that I’ve been given,” Banks said.

It’s a story that stresses Jackson’s artistic brilliance and command of the stage, which Banks said connects to so many.

“I want the audience to come with a readiness to experience just a radical joy,” Banks said. “I think that’s what Michael wanted to capture in his performance and in his message to the world- joy and hope and love. And that’s something we work very hard to deliver.”

“MJ: the Musical” will be performed at the Paramount Theatre through Sunday, Dec. 17.

Follow Heather Bosch on Twitter or email her here.

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Michael Jackson musical star: This role is a ‘dream come true’