On Stage

Jordan Markus Steps into MJ’s Thrilling Shoes

By Berto Fernández

“Markus describes the show as electric, jaw-dropping, and “hee hee”

The undeniable legacy of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, still rings loudly through the globe. An artist with the charisma and magnetism that can move masses, bring fans to a hysterical state, and pave the way for countless music-makers to this day. As Musical Theatre shows continue to develop jukebox musicals, it was a no-brainer that a show based on Michael’s life and fruitful catalog would be conceived.

MJ: The Musical was scheduled to open on Broadway mid-2020, when the pandemic hit, delaying its premiere until 2021. Only a year later, it was announced that the production would go on the road on a North American Tour. Broadway San Diego is bringing the show to the Civic Theater, March 5th through the 10th. Producing a spectacle of this magnitude requires a top notch cast and crew, including covers and understudies, they are a crucial part of the production. We chatted with Jordan Markus, the Michael standby for the tour, about his process and experience in the show.

You may recognize Markus from several Theatre productions here at San Diego Musical Theatre including In the Heights(his favorite musical of all time), and Xanadu, receiving rave reviews for his smooth vocals and magnetic quality. He was born in New Orleans but raised in Georgia, where he started developing his love for Music. “Me and my siblings would create bits and mess around on instruments. We had no idea how to play but put on shows for the family. Seeing the joy it brought to my family and having fun with my siblings meant the world to me and from then on, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life,” he explains.

Jordan recalls the audition and callback process for this show as being the toughest one of his career, but also the most rewarding. He was living in San Diego when he received the call to join the tour and start rehearsals 4 days later. He packed his belongings and went to New York, where the journey began. “Although I’ve loved Michael Jackson since I was a kid, I was new to the show, while the other MJ’s already knew the show and had been rehearsing/performing it for almost a year. So, I spent countless hours with two of Michael’s very own dancers and choreographers, Rich and Tone Taluega. They really instilled in me from the start that the details are what separates MJ’s style of movement from any other. I worked tirelessly with them in our rehearsal studios, along with reading our script and studying performance film nonstop. Although I know the show now, I still do those things to this day, there’s always room to grow!” Markus added, who describes the show as “electric, jaw-dropping, and “hee hee” (referring to the popular vocal riff that MJ added in most of his recordings).

He mentions that audiences will be dancing on their seats, as the show features most of Jackson’s hits from the Jackson 5 era, to the later days of his illustrious career. The show also dives into Michael as a human artist, and how fame and public notoriety shaped his journey. “One of my favorite scenes in the show must be the scene following “Human Nature”. It’s such a raw moment for MJ, he’s very vulnerable about the cards life has dealt him, and it really humanizes this man that we all see as just a huge public figure”, Jordan adds. 

His favorite part of the process is getting to connect with audience members after the show, talking about their connection to Michael’s music, and seeing kids dressed up like him. When asked what his favorite MJ song was, he could, understandably so, narrow it down to three; “Bad”, “Human Nature”, and “For All Time”, which is a song that was cut from the original Thriller album, but is now available to stream. Markus also expressed that if he could say anything to Michael, it would be that 15 years after his passing, his music is still a staple in this world, making people happy.

Additionally, to being a Theatre actor, Jordan is an accomplished songwriter and musician. His two albums of original material, Daydream Believer and Summers Over are available for streaming on most platforms. To keep up with his endeavors and latest news, follow him on his Instagram account @jordanmarkus or look him up by name: Jordan Markus.

When asked how our San Diego LGBTQ+ Community would connect with MJ: The Musical, he expressed, “I’d say that Michael always led with love, that’s part of what makes him so inspiring to me, and that’s what I try to do every day on and off stage. And whether it’s through the diverse cast we have, or the overall message of unity, I hope that everyone feels included, respected, and seen in this piece of art we’re presenting.”

Jordan will be on as MJ for the San Diego performances on Saturday, March 9th at 2PM, and Sunday, March 10th at 6:30PM.

MJ: The Musical is presented by Broadway San Diego with performances March 5th through March 10th at the Civic Center in Downtown San Diego. Tickets and info: https://www.broadwaysd.com/upcoming-events/mj/