Come hell, pandemic, or high water, the cursed Michael Jackson musical is still making its way toward Broadway. Today, producers of the musical MJ, which was originally supposed to start performances this July before opening in August, have announced that it will instead start performances at the Neil Simon Theatre on March 8, 2021, and open April 15. As of now, Broadway theaters are officially closed until Labor Day due to the coronavirus, though the shutdown will likely extend further, given the numerous questions about how theaters could ensure the safety of patrons, staff, and performers, and how the industry itself could recover economically. MJ is the second major Broadway production to jump its performance schedule all the way to next spring; the Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker–led Plaza Suite announced yesterday that it would play the Hudson Theatre from March 19 through July 18, 2021.
The pandemic is just one of a series of crises that have plagued the development of the musical. After the Sundance premiere in January 2019 of Leaving Neverland, a documentary that focused on Wade Robson and James Safechuck’s allegations that Jackson molested them, the production canceled its planned out-of-town tryout in Chicago, citing an Actor’s Equity strike (though the union insisted the strike would not have significantly affected its plans). Later, in April 2019, book writer Lynn Nottage and director Christopher Wheeldon did a surreal interview with the New York Times in which they said they found the men in the documentary “very believable,” as Wheeldon put it, “but our position in making this show is that we’re trying to make a show that’s balanced.” (Jackson’s estate, which is involved in the musical, has denounced Robson and Safechuck as “liars.” ) For now, when and if it opens in 2021, MJ is still set to star Ephraim Sykes as Michael Jackson.