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MJ: The Musical Summary
- Show Status: Currently playing at the Neil Simon Theatre
- Genre: Musical
- MJ: The Musical is 2 Hours 35 Minutes long, including an intermission of 15 Minutes
- 8 Shows per week
- Previews Began: December 6, 2021
- Show Opened: February 1, 2022
- Show Closes: May 26, 2024
Jukebox musical about Michael Jackson preparing for his 1992 “Dangerous Tour” amid his pain killer drug addiction and during the time of the allegations of child molestation
MJ: The Musical on Broadway Background
This show is crowd-pleasing biographical retelling of Michael Jackson’s life told through many of his greatest hit songs, while he prepares for the 1992 “Dangerous Tour” amid his drug use and the unsettling accusations of child molestation.
Show Development Challenge For The Producers
It is clear that Michael Jackson had an amazing musical career that has spanned many decades, but producers clearly faced a hurdle in attempting to celebrate his music while not including any reference to the terrible accusations that have been levied against him.
This show tries to have it both ways. It attempts to divorce the art from the artist and then only show the art, but then still cherry-picks some life-story details from Jackson's past to fit the narrative, but leaving out all the bad stuff.
Cherry-Picked Retrospectives and Forward Perspectives
The producers solution to the dilemma of what to show and what to hide, was to freeze-time in the show to specific occasion in Jackson's life and then to cherry-pick the retrospectives and forward perspectives, while leaving out all the terrible stuff. This was probably the only way the show could make it to Broadway with the approval of the Jackson estate.
Their approach works well with this show, but producers face controversy of hypocrisy and bias, in their attempt to make a crowd-pleasing fun song-and-dance show for Broadway. Critics claim they may have sold their souls to the devil to get this show done, but the end product is still a slick crowd pleaser that allows the music of Michael Jackson to be celebrated, while avoiding all the serious matters that destroyed his reputation.
Critics Take Aim At The Title Of The Show: MJ The Musical
Critics claim that the show is poorly titled, as the show only includes the socially acceptable parts of the Michael Jackson story and is in no way an objective overview of his life. It also does poor service to the alleged victims of his misdeeds and minimizes his impact of their lives.
Sexual Misconduct Allegations Not Addressed in the Show
While not bringing up any of the sexual misconduct allegations against him, the show has been heavily criticized for including a reference to Jackson's own alleged childhood trauma that he suffered at the hands of his own father, Joe Jackson. Conversely the show failed to cover the alleged trauma that Jackson may have perpetuated on the children around him in his own life.
Broadway critics lament that you cannot cherry-pick which parts of child abuse you want to use to provide texture to the narrative. It has been published that Michael Jackson would not have fared well in the post #MeToo world, and would most likely be in jail now.
Lynn Nottage Lends Her Name To This Lightning Rod
In a something of a coup, show producers were able to convince Lynn Nottage to write the show. Nottage is a notable playwright and the first (and only) woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize twice. She achieved these accolades for her previous Broadway plays Ruined and Sweat, both tales of hardship that focus on themes of identity and discrimination.
It remains to be seen if Nottage will write in her memoir about any regret in being involved in this show, that many see as a whitewash of the Michael Jackson story.
The Previous Working Titles For The Show
In the development cycle of MJ: The Musical, the show was known under various other monikers including
- "MJ: The Michael Jackson Musical",
- "Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough"
- "MJ: We're Going All The Way"
Iconic Jackson Dance Moves
The show incorporates many of Michael Jackson’s iconic dance moves into its set pieces thanks to the addition of director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
It is Wheeldon, who is a Tony Award winning contemporary ballet choreographer known for his work with the New York City Ballet and the dance musical An American in Paris, that really sets the tone for this show.
The Show Faced Many Problems Before The Broadway Opening:
MJ: The Musical show experienced a number of setbacks on its road to Broadway, before it finally opened on the Great White Way in December 2021.
Cancellation Of Premiere in Chicago Run 2018
The show had a rocky start due to the cancellation of its pre-Broadway premiere at the James N. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago in 2018 and the show allegedly had financial problems in 2019. The lead actor Ephraim Sykes quit the show in June 2021, just before its scheduled opening in previews on Broadway. He was replaced with Myles Frost, who starred as the lead role as Michael at the show opening.
Chicago Test Run Was Cancelled in 2019
The decision to call off the Chicago test run at the Nederlander was allegedly made by the Michael Jackson estate, This due to alleged scheduling difficulties caused by the alleged Actors Equity strike in early 2019.
This was allegedly seen by many as a delaying tactic for a show that faces much criticism for its poor handling of the allegations of sexual abuse made against Jackson over the years both before and after his death.
The show avoids touching on any of these hot-button allegations and intends to focus the show on the musical repertoire and art of the artist and not his backstory, albeit some of it.
Ephraim Sykes Quits the Show
In June 2021, the lead actor Ephraim Sykes (who played Michael) quit the show Sykes was out just five months before the show was set to open on Broadway.
Sykes gave a weak response for the reason to quit citing "scheduling conflicts" but he then failed to identify what those conflicts actually were. The real reason for his departure may be due to the show material being a bit of a whitewash of the sexual misconduct allegations levied against Michael Jackson and Sykes may have chosen to avoid being involved in all of this.
MJ: The Musical was originally scheduled to begin performance July 6, 2020 and was delayed due to COVID-19, like so many other Broadway shows. The show finally opened on December 6, 2021 with Myles Frost in the lead role.
Red Carpet Opening Feb 2022: Variety Reporter Booted From The Red Carpet
Variety Reporter Michael Appler was booted from opening night red carpet of MJ The Musical for asking about the sexual abuse allegations that are still made against Michael Jackson. For Mr. Appler to get booted from the red carpet raises serious questions about the relationship between Broadway and the press, specifically the NY press.
The backers of the show and the show producers intended to keep the red carpet opening purely as a marketing vehicle and not an opportunity for the press to ask the obvious questions about the ethical dilemma of painting Jackson in such a positive light with so much acrimony surrounding his brand, even to this day.
Other press representatives who attended the red carpet did not dare ask such questions because they lacked the backbone to be so bold and feared to bite the hand that feeds them. It is unclear if press representatives were told beforehand that they would be booted from the opening if they asked questions about the elephant in the room.
The Big Elephant in the Room
So many of Michael Jacksons dance moves and mannerisms make it into the show, but sometimes the show it feels like it is actually an animatronic version of Jackson on stage. The show delivers an avalanche of sorrowful facts about Jackson and his upbringing at the hands of his allegedly abusive father Joseph Jackson. What the show fails to address is the elephant in the room about his own alleged child abuse, possibly stemming from his own abuse as a child.
Other Matters That The Show Does Not Address:
Dangerous World Tour was not scheduled to ever appear in North America
People seem to forget that the 1992 Dangerous World Tour was not scheduled to ever appear in North America. This is not addressed in the show at all. This show is set in 1992 and Michael Jackson had become a social pariah in the US due to the many lingering allegations of child molestation, that ultimately resulted in civil cases, but no criminal cases. Jackson was perceived to be hurt and angry at the US and then kept them off the tour schedule out of spite. The accusations of child molestation just grew more frequent from there.
It Is Claimed That Michael Jackson's Tours and Philanthropy Were Designed As A Distraction
Critics argue that Jackson's incredible drive to make the 1992 “Dangerous Tour” a huge spectacular was in fact an attempt to distract the public from his many legal and financial troubles at home. It is alleged that this strategy would also be later employed in other tours in times of trouble. The strategy may have been, whenever there is trouble at home, get Jackson out of Neverland where the bulk of the alleged molestation took place and do a world tour. On the road he may have been less of a liability.
What’s MJ: The Musical Like?
The musical follows the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson as he prepares for his 1992 Dangerous World Tour. MTV is shooting their docuseries and Jackson is all stressed out as he is attempting to develop the show that will travel the world that he wants to be unlike anything that has ever been seen before.
As Michael and his colleagues rehearse their iconic choreography and world famous songs, the audience is transported back in time to the many creative and defining moments in the star’s life. We get to see amazing cherry-picked retrospectives and forward perspectives of both Jackson's life experiences and music.
Moonwalk and Glitter Glove
Many of the Jackson's most popular traits make it into the show including the famous Moonwalk dance (which he allegedly stole from singer/dancer Jeff Daniels), his single sparkling glove (stolen from Caroline Hampton) and his love of chimps (stolen from primatologist Dian Fossey)
Jukebox Musical With 37 Songs
The show is heavy on music and light and thin on plot, making it another classic jukebox musical, but is still a crowd-pleaser. With its rendition of many old MJ favorites and some songs that may have been forgotten, the show is a fun distraction from reality, even if only for a short time.
37 of Michael Jacksons songs are integrated into this jukebox musical show. with some being longer than others. In many parts of the show it is more a bio-musical than jukebox musical.
Is MJ: The Musical Good for Kids?
This show is entertaining for children of all ages as it is jam packed with recognizable songs that have inspired generations of kids to chase their dreams.
MJ: The Musical Ticket Lottery and Rush Schedule
Every day there are discounted Broadway show tickets sold as part of the Broadway ticket lotteries or as Rush Tickets Tonight. Tickets are only valid on-the-same-day of the drawing. The following is the daily schedule of the ticket lottery and RUSH ticket pricing.
Neil Simon Theatre
New York, NY 10019
- Michael Jackson
- Elijah Rhea Johnson
- Joe Jackson
- Quentin Earl Darrington
- Whitney Bashor
- Bailey McCall
- Gabriel Ruiz
Past Cast Members
- Michael Jackson
- Mile Frost
- Michael Jackson
- Ephraim Sykes
Michael Jackson Estate
Columbia Live Stage
- General Manager
- Devin Keudell
- Casting Director
- Rachel Hoffman
- Press Agent
- DKC O&M
- Book Writer
- Lynn Nottage
- Christopher Wheeldon
- Christopher Wheeldon
- Musical Supervisor
- David Holcenberg