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Michael Jackson keeps flashing back.

In the middle of crises, he hears the voices of his domineering father, who is harsh with him because he wants to inoculate his son against a tough world. Jackson also hears the words of record label founder Berry Gordy, producer Quincy Jones and others in his orbit. But the voices, and the problems they anticipate or address, cannot drown out his music and the movement.

For Michael is a virtuoso showman. He assesses and solves problems through music and dance, finding his ultimate joy in perfecting his art. He also tends to equate applause with love.

"MJ the Musical," which runs through May 26, had its press opening Wednesday at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre. The production, choreographed and directed by Christopher Wheeldon, is a smashing triumph.

True, Jamaal Fields-Green (who alternates the title role with Roman Banks) is much more muscular than the icon but he evokes Michael's aura in his vocal modulations, speaking delicately but belting powerfully. He also summons Jackson with his virtuosic dance moves, including his moonwalk. All of that serves Lynn Nottage's narrative as well, because the real Michael may have been wiry with a gentle falsetto. But he also was exacting and tough-as-nails.

Nottage set the show in a rehearsal room in 1992 as Jackson is preparing to hop four continents with his Dangerous Tour. He wants his outing to be the grandest one by any artist in history and he keeps making demands of his dancers and supporting crew, even as both costs and negative press reports mount.

On top of that, an MTV documentary crew that's shooting in the room has captured talk of pills that Jackson takes to help him maintain his stamina and relentless drive. (The show has a reference to his contemporary rival: "If we don't do it, God's gonna give the idea to Prince.")

The critical reception to "MJ" on Broadway was mostly from the same page, with many noting that the show failed to address the messy questions in Jackson's life.

But the musical is all about fandom. It's a celebration of Jackson's music from "Beat It" and "Thriller" to "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and "Human Nature." In fact, in the show, the narrative makes fans of the hostile press as, after some tough questions, the reporters start dancing in sync with Jackson. Similarly, the MTV reporter Rachel (Mary Kate Moore) duets with Jackson.

Wheeldon's production, backed by Victor Simonson's tight orchestra, is extravagant and flawless. It boasts seamless transitions and whiz-bang technical wizardry.

The performances are similarly impressive. Fields-Green has the star qualities in voice, moves and charisma, not to mention that winning smile, to make believers of us. And he works so hard in the role, I got fitter and lost weight just watching him.

He's just one of a trinity of actors in the title role. Brandon Lee Harris inhabits the teenage Michael beautifully, imbuing him with innocence, hunger and warmth. And there's an overload of talent and cuteness with Josiah Benson, who alternates the role of Little Michael with Bane Griffith.

Kudos also to Devin Bowles, a lyrical actor who switches effortlessly and delivers brilliantly between the roles of Joe Jackson and tour director Rob as Michael's memories flit from scene to scene.

It's a credit to this musical that we get a glimpse of Jackson's journey and all the frailties that make him human, even as, at the end, he flies like a latter day Peter Pan into remote and drowning lights.

'MJ the Musical'

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sat., 1 & 6:30 p.m. Sun. Ends May 26.

Tickets: $50-$199.