Update, with Equity statement Actors’ Equity isn’t shouldering the blame for the cancellation of a pre-Broadway engagement of the new Michael Jackson jukebox musical, saying any delays caused by the recent Equity strike were “modest.”
“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,” said Brandon Lorenz, Communications Director, Actors’ Equity Association in a statement. “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.”
Earlier today, producers for Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough canceled a pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago, blaming “scheduling difficulties” caused by the recently ended Actors’ Equity strike.
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough will now make its world premiere with the previously announced Broadway debut in summer 2020. The producers said that the musical’s first national tour will premiere in Chicago, and that a developmental work session will take place in New York City this fall.
The decision to skip the pre-Broadway try-out was announced today by The Michael Jackson Estate and Columbia Live Stage, producers of the bio-musical. Don’t Stop was to have debuted at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre on Oct. 29, with a Dec. 1 closing date.
The 33-day Equity strike, which ended Feb. 8, prohibited union members from participating in the developmental labs that are increasingly common for Broadway musicals.
The cancellation of Don’t Stop‘s pre-Broadway Chicago engagement appears to be the first production nixed as a result of the strike. The Chicago run was announced in January.
The new musical will feature a book by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and a score featuring more than 25 Jackson songs. Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon will direct and choreograph. The musical depicts Jackson and his collaborators as they rehearse for the 1992 Dangerous Tour.
The musical reportedly does not focus on Jackson’s personal life, though director Wheeldon recently told the Chicago Tribune that the show is intended to be “a portrait of the artist, a man of contradictions that contained so much beauty. A life like Michael’s was so rich, dense and troubled. But there were these moments of great lightness. We are interested in celebrating Michael, and in breaking down his songs and really listening to them.”
The Jackson Estate has recently been waging a war of words with HBO over the upcoming documentary Leaving Neverland, which chronicles child sexual abuse allegations against the late King of Pop. Directed by Dan Reed, the controversial film, which debuted this year at the Sundance Film Festival, is set for a two-night HBO launch March 3-4.
Deadline has reached out to Actors’ Equity for comment, and to a spokesman for the musical for additional details about the cancellation