Newcomer Myles Frost will make his Broadway debut in the production, replacing Ephraim Sykes, the “Ain’t Too Proud” and “Hamilton” veteran who had originally been tapped to play Jackson. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the opening of “MJ” by several months and shut down the theater business. It also created a scheduling conflict for Sykes, who has to shoot a role in a feature film.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I depart ‘MJ,'” Sykes said in a statement. “This year has brought a lot of change and opportunity, and although it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to an iconic role and production, I look forward to what is to come. Thank you to the ‘MJ’ team and congratulations to Myles. I can’t wait to see you shine as the King of Pop and for us all to celebrate the return of Broadway.”
Frost was cast following a long search for performer who could convincingly play the “King of Pop,” one of those performers who could hit the right notes while also believably pulling off the singer’s elaborate dances. “MJ” will begin performances on Broadway on December 6, 2021, with an opening night set for Tuesday, February 1, 2022, at the Neil Simon Theatre. Jackson’s long list of hits includes “Billie Jean,” “Bad,” and “Thriller” continue to draw fans, but his career was mired in controversy after he was accused in 1993 of sexually abusing a child. That case was settled out of court, but in 2005, Jackson was tried and acquitted of additional sexual abuse allegations involving minors. “MJ” is backed by the Jackson estate, which denies the allegations, so it’s unclear how it will handle or if it will even address that part of the singer’s legacy. Jackson died from an overdose of propofol in 2009 at the age of 50.
“MJ” features a book by Lynn Nottage (“Sweat”) and will be directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon (“An American in Paris”).