Day 6

Leaving Neverland's abuse allegations won't halt Michael Jackson musical's Broadway debut

Though child sex abuse allegations released in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland have dampened the star's legacy, a Broadway show on the singer's life is expected to premiere next summer.

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough is expected to open in New York City in 2020

Michael Jackson performs in Tokyo on Dec. 12, 1992, on the last leg of his Dangerous World Tour. A new musical about his life is expected to focus on rehearsals leading up to the tour. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images)
Listen9:52

Despite explosive allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson in a recently released documentary, one Broadway theatre journalist believes a new musical about the pop star will live on.

With a billboard in New York City already promoting the show, the jukebox musical Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough is slated to begin performances in the summer of 2020.

"My understanding of what's going on with the show at this moment in time is that there has been no wavering on the part of the artists involved," said Jeremy Gerard, a writer for Broadway News.

Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon is set to direct the show, with Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage as writer. It's produced by Columbia Live Entertainment and the Jackson estate, and relies on Jackson's vast catalogue of pop music.

In terms of bringing an audience in, I think these are two gigantic enterprises that are very skilled at selling tickets.- Jeremy Gerard, Broadway News

The show is believed to be set in 1992 during rehearsals for Jackson's Dangerous world tour — a year before the first allegations of abuse by the performer became public.

It's unknown whether the show will address those allegations, but in a statement to Esquire, a spokesperson for the show affirmed it would go ahead.

"Yes, the Michael Jackson musical will open on Broadway next summer," Rick Mirmontez told the magazine.

Jackson's estate has denounced the allegations made by Wade Robson and James Safechuck earlier this month in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.

'Likely they will ignore it'

If it addresses the allegations, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough wouldn't be the first Broadway show to acknowledge a star's legal or personal controversies.

"Another one of course is Jersey Boys, which dealt with some of the darker side of the music business, and what the Four Seasons confronted among their own group — gambling debts and and things like that," Gerard told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

Wade Robson, left, director Dan Reed, centre, and James Safechuck pose for a portrait to promote the film Leaving Neverland. Robson and Safechuck have both alleged that Jackson sexually abused them. (Taylor Jewell/Invision/Associated Press)

But gambling debts are far different from the serious allegations of child sexual abuse against Jackson. 

"I think it's more likely that they will ignore it rather than try to deal with it because it's very difficult to imagine how something like this ... can be dealt with in the theatre," Gerard added.

Last month, ahead of the premiere of Leaving Neverlandproducers cancelled a planned October pre-Broadway run of the show in Chicago.

They suggested an Actor's Equity union strike was responsible. The union fired back, saying that any delays caused by their 33-day strike were "modest."

"There was speculation that knowing this documentary was about to come out that they [the producers] wanted to get some more distance for the show from the documentary," Gerard said.

Following the money

According to Gerard, the show may go on if only because of Jackson's massive draw. Though the artist's prestige has been somewhat dampened by the new allegations, some fans continue to defend Jackson.

While the numbers haven't been made public, shows similar to Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough have had production budgets upwards of $20 million US, says Gerard.

"I think that Hollywood and Broadway follow the money," he said.

Many fans support Jackson, despite the new allegations, given the artist's status in music history. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

"It's going to have major promotion. It's more likely to follow a Mamma Mia or a Jersey Boys than a Bullets Over Broadway."

Bullets Over Broadway was a commercially unsuccessful Broadway musical by Woody Allen.

Still, Gerard doesn't expect to see protestors outside the theatre anytime soon.

"There'll be lots of blogging, there'll be lots of news reports," he said.

"But in terms of bringing an audience in, I think these are two gigantic enterprises that are very skilled at selling tickets."


To hear the full interview with Jeremy Gerard, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.