The Michael Jackson estate, facing questions prompted by a new documentary detailing abuse allegations against the singer, announced Thursday that it was canceling a planned Chicago tryout of a new jukebox musical about him.
The estate and its producing partner, Columbia Live Stage, said that they would instead aim to bring the musical straight to Broadway in the summer of 2020.
The reason for the change in plans, the producers said in a statement, was not the documentary but “scheduling difficulties” caused by a labor dispute. A five-week job action by Actors’ Equity, which was resolved last week, delayed a planned developmental lab for the show, and the producers decided they needed more time before staging the full show.
The musical, called “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” has a highly credentialed creative team. The book is by Lynn Nottage, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright with a history of deeply researching the subject matters she writes about, and the director and choreographer is Christopher Wheeldon, a prominent English artist who won a Tony Award for choreographing a stage adaptation of “An American in Paris.”
The show was announced eight months ago. It has already had at least one developmental lab to test out the material, and on Thursday the producers said they would schedule another workshop session in New York City this fall.
The cancellation of the Chicago premiere comes three weeks after the two-part documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and two weeks before it is scheduled to debut on HBO.
The film, directed and produced by Dan Reed, details allegations by two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say they were abused by Jackson when they were young. Both men had supported Jackson during a 2005 molestation trial, denying that he molested them, but then sued his estate after he died; the estate has denounced the film.
The show’s publicists have said that the musical will focus on the period of time leading up to Jackson’s “Dangerous” world tour which began in 1992. The next year, Jackson unexpectedly stopped touring, citing an addiction to painkillers that he blamed on what he said was a false abuse allegation. It is not clear how the estate’s involvement will affect whether the musical will address that chapter of his life or other complex and controversial aspects of Jackson’s storied career.
The musical is unrelated to other stage productions featuring Jackson’s song catalog, including Cirque du Soleil’s “One,” running in Las Vegas, and “Thriller Live,” running in London and on tour in Europe.