Audiences Separate Michael Jackson’s Alleged Misdeeds From His Music
MJ: The Musical – Don’t Stop Until You’ve Had Enough
Currently playing at the Neil Simon Theatre, 4-time Broadway Tony Award winner MJ: The Musical celebrates one of the essential icons of pop music, Michael Jackson.
With radio hits like Billie John, beat it, I’m going to start something’, Thriller and man in the mirrorMJ focuses on Jackson’s 1992 achievement Dangerous World Tour.
Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris) and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage (Sweat, Ruin), the jukebox musical transcends Michael Jackson’s trademark sounds and moves by offering an exclusive glimpse into the man behind the looking glass, but not too much.
GM showcases Jackson’s creativity and collaborative spirit, giving audiences behind-the-scenes access to the creation of a legend.
GMCritical reception of: Good or Wrong?
After an extended pandemic delay, production opened in February 2022 to mixed to negative reviews. Time Out theater critic Adam Feldman left the theater entertained, but unconvinced that he had actually seen the man in the smoke and mirrors. Maya Phillips of The New York Times called the musical inherently hollow, finding the material lacking in cohesion.
Positive attention for the show includes Deadline’s assessment of the company visually and sonically lovely while Peter Marks of The Washington Post also praised the show’s adrenaline-rushing vibe and the cast, notably Myles Frost, quite persuasive.
Frost went on to win the 2022 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. The dance-heavy show also won a Tony Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Wheeldon’s Choreography as well as Drama Desk and Tony Awards for Design Elements.
You want to sell something: tickets!
By all metrics GM was a major box office hit, averaging over $1 million a week, and for the past several months operating at nearly 100% of its potential capacity.
After the Tonys (with Frost winning and smooth criminal performance), the show’s weekly gross catapulted to $1,661,000, with shows selling out every day and advance sales booming. It was the biggest box office jump that week on Broadway. The numbers have remained high since then.
Why Ephraim Sykes beat it?
In June 2021, the candidate of Tony Ephraim Sykes (Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of Temptations)—the actor was originally meant to play GM‘s titular character – announced that he would be leaving the production due to pandemic-related scheduling conflicts. Sykes also appeared in Season 2 of the popular Netflix streamer Russian doll.
In his press release, Broadway vet Sykes thanked the crew, expressed bitterness at leaving the production, and wished everyone well.
While some believe Sykes’ departure is due to more complicated matters than logistics, he has yet to speak out on such rumors. However, in a 2019 interview with Rolling Stone, Sykes openly admitted that the controversies surrounding Michael Jackson factored into his decision to perform. the role.
Ultimately, at least at the time, he decided to take it as a challenge because no one could ever know the whole story, as Jackson died in June 2009.
Sykes wanted to celebrate the much idolized artist (including himself). More than a year – and a global pandemic later – Sykes has finally bowed out.
smooth criminal? People say otherwise
While rumors of Michael Jackson’s alleged sex crimes had been widely circulated and hotly debated before GM (some dating from 1993) was the controversial 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland which revived these cases, bringing to light Jackson’s allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
While the King of Pop was acquitted of all criminal charges in 2005, the court of public opinion was not so easily convinced. Jackson died four years later, aged 50, from drug-related cardiac arrest.
Leaving Neverland The documentary contains disturbing allegations
The release of Leaving Neverland coincided with the development schedule of GM but the musical does not (and never has) include this aspect of Jackson’s personal life. Michael Jackson’s estate, which continues to deny all allegations, has sued HBO for distributing Dan Reed’s revealing and gripping documentary, citing it as a posthumous murder. Jackson himself also denied all allegations during his lifetime.
Despite his claims of innocence, Jackson reportedly paid $25 million to settle the 1993 lawsuit, with $18 million going to Jordie Chandler, $2.5 million to each parent, and the remainder of the $25 million. to lawyers. According to statements, Jackson hoped to avoid a long and drawn-out ordeal.
The Short Memory of Broadway Audiences
But Broadway audiences a) have very short memories in this 24-hour news cycle of a culture, b) take Jackson at his word and believe in his innocence, or c) can easily separate art from artist, able to appreciate the sheer breathtaking art of a single human.
People in the industry certainly predicted more resistance to a bio-music revolving around Jackson, but current (and anticipated) ticket sales suggest otherwise. Audiences can apparently experience a show’s time capsule, focusing on Michael Jackson’s creative legacy rather than his alleged misdeeds against minors.
The protesters never showed up, and show producers breathed a sigh of relief.