The Michael Jackson musical that has just begun its run at London’s West End — in the midst of a sensational inquiry into abuse allegations — has cut the volume of references to the singer’s alleged pedophilia from its plot.
But it remains silent on the broader issue of abuse within the Catholic Church.
The musical, which had previously courted controversy for its casting of actors reportedly in their late teens in the role of young Jackson, has apparently decided that its story, in which a young boy goes under the care of the famous singer and his brothers after his mother dies, would not be the right time to dramatize the British abuse scandal.
It remains unclear how the story will be addressed after the play closes on Sept. 1, 2020. “We can confirm that the Jackson story will come out — it is part of the narrative,” a spokesperson said.
The production, directed by Jamie Lloyd, is intended to be a celebration of the King of Pop’s music and creative brilliance — which was overshadowed by a persistent stream of sex abuse allegations against him. The play, a reimagining of two 1980s musicals, is due to run until March.
Jackson’s estate gave £7.5m to ‘King of Pop’ musical, scrapped plans for abuse evidence Read more
However, the production, which stars Bruno Langley in the role of the young Jackson, has been dogged by controversy since it began. An actor in his early 20s, Langley was considered an inappropriate choice for the role because of his youthful appearance. The show has also prompted criticism for showing the singer’s sister Paris, who says she was abused by Jackson at the age of 7, and his two young sons, as its lead characters.
The Guardian reported that the production initially “had to drop the Jackson story and its sex abuse allegations to avoid legal action,” and that it is now “planned to leave the Jackson story and sex abuse allegations untouched for the last week of the run, before closing.”
Speaking to The Guardian about the casting of a 20-year-old as Jackson, the play’s creator, Lloyd, said: “I did my own research into him. I wouldn’t have cast a 20-year-old for a Michael Jackson role if I didn’t believe this was the right character … and I knew that it was the right time, given the events that I’m about to put on stage.”
Although the production has featured an overall discussion of Jackson’s sexuality, it has largely left the allegations of sexual abuse against him to “an actor’s imagination” and “weird ideas,” Lloyd said. Langley, who has a biography of Jackson on his Facebook page, has claimed he is playing the singer as an adult.
While also courting criticism for his casting decision, Lloyd said it is “important that young boys don’t grow up with social media, digital media, mobile phones in their pockets, to have to watch the faces of those that they are friends with all of the time.”