Interview: J. Daughtry of MJ THE MUSICAL at Broadway Across America

MJ the Musical plays Kansas City from May 7 through May 12 at the Kansas City Musical Hall.

By: Apr. 17, 2024
Interview: J. Daughtry of MJ THE MUSICAL at Broadway Across America
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.

Existing user? Just click login.

I remember seeing a remarkable, ten-year-old Michael Jackson with his brothers on Sunday’s Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1960s.  He was a heck of a performer even then.   It seems remarkable that the man that little boy became passed away more than fifteen years ago. More unbelievably, Michael would be eligible this year for Social Security and Medicare.

“MJ The Musical” resurrects Michael in a juke box piece with a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage. After a multi-year Covid delay, “MJ the Musical” opened February 2022 and earned ten Tony nominations and four Tony Awards.

Still playing the great White Way, a first North American tour of MJ is currently traversing the country with Roman Banks as MJ.  Banks comes to the Michael Jackson role after having been the first African-American actor ever to play the Broadway lead in “Dear Evan Hansen.” “MJ” is scheduled for Kansas City in early May. 

This past week I was honored to speak with J. Daughtry, the MJ cast member who plays Motown Records founder Barry Gordy, Jr.  The real Gordy is still with us at ninety-five years young and playing Barry Gordy Jr. has almost become a cottage industry for Daughtry because of Gordy’s importance to the recording industry.

Barry Gordy, Jr. has surfaced in more than a few shows including “MJ,” plus in “Motown the Musical,” and ”Ain’t Too Proud.” After service in the Korean War and a successful stint as a songwriter, Gordy founded Motown Records. 

Gordy discovered and/or produced a catalog of the most famous Detroit area artists including The Miracles, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Bobby Parker, The Marvelettes, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, and The Jackson Five. Broadway World: Tell me all about “MJ the Musical”

Interview: J. Daughtry of MJ THE MUSICAL at Broadway Across America
J Daughtry

J. Daughtry: This is my seventh national tour. I've been doing it for quite a while.  MJ has been a multi-year commitment and one I wouldn’t trade. This tour is special because I'm getting to drive my own car and getting to see this wonderful country as part of my job.

I’m a hiker. Having my own car on tour allows me to visit the national parks that other castmates may only see from an airplane window.  Since I have a vehicle, I visit parts of cities you normally wouldn't see. Yeah, it is fun. Touring is fun,

This particular musical is special to me because it is the first North American tour. 

Broadway World: What makes “MJ” different?

J. Daughtry: This one is special because it's personal. We perform over sixty numbers from the MJ catalog, and it tells his complete story at least up until 1992.  It shows the duality of the man, Michael Jackson. The music is electric. The sound system is top notch. It's a great experience. Kansas City audiences will have a good time.

Broadway World:  We’re aware of some of the challenges Michael faced toward the end of his life. I take it this show is more focused on Michael’s performance art.  It is important to note that this is authorized biography with the cooperation of the Michael Jackson estate.

J. Daughtry: “MJ The Musical” is set mainly in a rehearsal hall for the 1992 Dangerous Stage Tour.  Michael’s story is told through flashbacks.

Rachel, a documentary film maker, and Alejandro, her camera operator, have joined the group to tell Michael’s story from the beginning through his salad days in 1992.

We actually have two Michaels.  One is Michael as a boy played by Jamaal Fields-Green and the other is Michael as a young adult played by Roman Banks.

During tour rehearsal process, we get to see, personal moments of a younger Michael and the way that he was raised in a tiny corner of Gary Indiana.  We get to see the growing and troubled family relationships between Michael and his Father Joe.

Broadway World: You play a music legend in this show. What have you learned about Barry Gordy?

J. Daughtry: I’ve been fortunate to have actually met the man.  Barry Gordy reminded me of a number of my family members in Florida.  Barry is like my uncles and my cousins and the deacons of my church; he was an ambitious man who found a product format that worked. Black performers of that time suggested a certain style.  He designed a record company structure that worked for these Motown artists.  These artists were produced in a certain way; and everyone profited.

Broadway World: What other shows have you been a part of?

J. Daughtry: I’ve been fortunate so far to have been part of the Broadway casts of “The Color Purple,” “Ain’t Too Proud,” and “Beautiful.” Additionally, I’ve toured with “Miss Saigon,” “The Color Purple,” and “Motown The Musical” and worked in a number of regional theater productions.

Interview: J. Daughtry of MJ THE MUSICAL at Broadway Across America

Broadway World:  I’m getting the impression that MJ is a really big show to stage:

J. Daughtry: We have 42 people traveling with us, I believe. We travel with a band of. 7. And I believe there are 23 in the cast. Our pet cat flies with most of the cast.

Broadway World: Tell me about the crew.

J. Daughtry: Our crew is phenomenal. They are able to get it in and get it out quickly. The route for this tour is easy and accessible. Big jumps across the country are mostly not required. This tour schedule seems fluid. The producers made wise decisions based on the size and complexity of the show. You know, I believe it's like five or six trucks to carry all we need. We carry these big LED screens. Posting lists include the huge sound system that must take-up a truck by itself.

MJ the musical features Michaels’s life up until 1992. His later life controversies are not addressed. “MJ the Musical” plays Kansas City from May 7 through May 12 at the Kansas City Musical Hall.  Tickets are available online at Ticketmaster or by telephone at 816.421.7500.


To post a comment, you must register and login.

Vote Sponsor