The Broadway musical centered around Michael Jackson has found its lead. Ephraim Sykes, who has worked on everything from Hamilton to Ain't Too Proud, has been cast as the king of pop in MJ: The Musical.
Tony Award-winner Christopher Wheeldon is slated to direct and choreograph MJ, which will begin previews on July 6, 2020, followed by its official opening on Aug. 13. "Ephraim Sykes is a bonafide triple threat, and dynamic rising star on Broadway. I am honored to be working with him on this exciting new production," Wheeldon said of the casting. MJ finished its final developmental workshop in New York earlier this month.
Despite the thorny legacy surrounding the legendary singer, it has not been revealed whether the musical will tackle the allegations leveled against Jackson during and after his lifetime. However, it's worth noting that the Michael Jackson Estate is producing the musical alongside Lia Vollack, and the estate has categorically denied all the sexual abuse allegations numerous times. Prior to the arrival of HBO's Leaving Neverland documentary earlier this year, the estate's attorney Howard Weitzman penned a 10-page letter in which he labeled the film "one-sided" and "sensationalist."
Columbia Live Stage and Sony Music, the label that Jackson called home for a good chunk of his career, are also investors in the musical. Earlier this year, director Christopher Wheeldon spoke about the abuse allegations with The New York Times. "The recent documentary is very believable, but our position in making this show is that we’re trying to make a show that’s balanced," Wheeldon said when asked if he believed Jackson was a child molester.