By David Canfield
February 14, 2019 at 02:16 PM EST
Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

In a shift, Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, the musical about the life of Michael Jackson, will make its world premiere on Broadway next year, bypassing its previously scheduled pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago. In a joint statement, the Michael Jackson Estate and Columbia Live Stage announced that the Chicago debut was canceled due to scheduling difficulties brought about by the recent Actors’ Equity strike.

Actors’ Equity has released a statement in response to the announcement, questioning why the strike, which lasted less than two weeks, would halt the planned run. “It’s incredibly disappointing that the actors and stage managers who are currently working to develop this project were not informed about a major production change before a public media announcement was made,” Communications Director Brandon Lorenz said. “The developmental lab that was scheduled for this production was delayed by 12 working days during the strike. It is difficult to understand how a modest delay in February would impact a run that was scheduled for late October.”

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough is boosted by a significant pedigree: Playwright Lynn Nottage, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize (most recently for Sweat), has written the musical’s book, while Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon will both direct and choreograph the production. The musical’s First National Tour will premiere in Chicago, while a developmental work session will take place this fall, in New York.

Details on the musical remain sparse; in the initial announcement of its development, producers promised “a score made up of some of the best-loved, top-selling songs in recording history.” The King of Pop’s expansive music career was, of course, among the most successful and acclaimed of all-time, plagued as it was by trauma from his childhood and his various reputation-tarnishing controversies, including allegations of child abuse. These were recently inflamed by the Sundance Film Festival premiere of the four-hour HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which chronicles the history of the allegations and features extensive interviews with two of his alleged victims, specifically, as well as their families. (The first scandal in 1993 was settled out of court, and Jackson was acquitted of all charges on the second, in 2005.)

“The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact,” the Michael Jackson Estate said in a statement. “These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.” The statement further called the documentary “the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death.”

This will mark the first time a Broadway-bound musical sanctioned by the Estate will go into development; no famous songs of Jackson, who died in 2009, have been confirmed for use here yet.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough will premiere on Broadway in the summer of 2020.

This post has been updated with a statement from Actors’ Equity.

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