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The bar is set pretty high for Dantanio Goodman, who is tasked with channelling the spirit of Michael Jackson for The Michael Jackson History Show.

Few moved like Jackson, who remains even in death one of the world’s most identifiable stars. For the audience to buy into the performance, Goodman must dance and sing like the King of Pop. And for that to happen, every nuance needs to be nailed.

“I really look beyond the entertainer,” Goodman, 37, said from his home in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I’ve studied the intricacies. You’ve got to zoom in.”

He has experience on the tribute circuit, having played Sammy Davis Jr. in a South African production of The Rat Pack.

But nothing could have prepared Goodman for the physicality of each two-hour performance of The Michael Jackson History Show.

“You’ve got to be in this from the get-go. For me, it’s a full workout. I consider this going to the gym and having a good time on stage, while working out.”

The cast, which features a live band and team of choreographed dancers, definitely puts Goodman through his paces.

He undergoes 22 costume changes each show, and sings material dating back to when Jackson was a 12-year-old with The Jackson 5.

Goodman learned to imitate Jackson’s moonwalk in 1990, when he was 10, so he considers himself born to perform Thriller, Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, Bad and Beat It in high-energy fashion.

“I really lose Dantanio when I’m on stage,” he said. “I become Michael.”

The production has been staged all over the world, and it always connects, Goodman said.

The Michael Jackson History Show’s maiden tour of Canada got underway Wednesday in Nanaimo, and stops tonight at the Royal Theatre. Tickets for the Victoria performance are almost sold out.

Goodman promises that all the details are in order. Everyone associated with the production treats Jackson’s legacy with care and respect. The point is to honour his art, not undermine it, Goodman said.

“If you’re going to do any enhancement to the show, whether it’s minute or on a big scale, you’ve got to think like Michael would think, even if he’s not in the room. We try to stay true to that memory.”

Attendees openly weep during the show, Goodman said. And the love-in continues long after the lights are up; the man playing Michael meets with fans after the show, sometimes for up to an hour.

The demand for Jackson is still incredibly high, and even though fans know Goodman is playing a role, they become transfixed seeing the image of Jackson on stage once again.

“I remember one lady in Singapore, and she had seen Michael seven times in concert. She said she had to remind herself that night that it wasn’t Michael Jackson.”

The setlist and imagery of The Michael Jackson History Show is based around two of the biggest events in Jackson’s career: his tour of Bucharest in 1992 and the HIStory tour from 1996-97.

Thriller, released in 1982, was Jackson’s high point as a recording artist, but his concerts during the mid-’90s were some of the biggest and best-reviewed of his career, which is why producers wanted to focus on them for the show, Goodman said.

“What we’ve done is really encompass those memories and those songs, the outfits, the dancing. The whole concept is really built around that memory.”

Goodman is making new memories for fans who never had the opportunity to see Jackson perform live. He died in 2009 at 50.

The pressure to succeed is considerable, but Goodman believes he has put in the necessary work.

“When I come out and sing Man in the Mirror, you feel the emotion. I’ve got to be convincing, otherwise I’m just another guy in the line with a costume.”

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