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Wheeldon to Direct and Choreograph Broadway Musical About Michael Jackson


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1 hour ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Wheeldon doesn't strike me as the ideal hire for this gig. 

Good grief - at a time when the dance world claims to be trying so hard to diversify in dancers and choreographers (at least the female ones), why would they go with Wheeldon?

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My thoughts exactly. 

Jackson's dance style was a crafty amalgam of everything from Fred Astaire, to James Brown, to Bob Fosse, to any number of vernacular styles that he somehow managed to make his own. I'm worried that all we'll get from Wheeldon is a Jackson pastiche, especially given that the show as described sounds like a juke-box musical.

If they had to go for a white guy, they might have given Doug Elkins a call. 

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This musical also doesn't sound promising. If anyone wants a good idea of how Michael Jackson performed, there so much video footage. His career was exceptionally well-chronicled. 

If this musical is about his life story, well, that's a very complex story and I'm not sure a jukebox musical can do it justice. 

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On 6/20/2018 at 2:31 PM, California said:

Good grief - at a time when the dance world claims to be trying so hard to diversify in dancers and choreographers (at least the female ones), why would they go with Wheeldon?

He's a known quantity, in a field where people are very risk-averse.

On 6/20/2018 at 3:25 PM, Kathleen O'Connell said:

If they had to go for a white guy, they might have given Doug Elkins a call. 

Yup!

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It seems to me that Christopher Wheeldon's skin color is probably the least troubling aspect of a jukebox musical based on the life of Michael Jackson. Have these people no shame? Apparently they are carrying on even after the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” (which is devastating viewing). I hope everyone involved loses their shirts and Nottage's and Wheeldon's checks bounce.

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“This is not a Cirque du Soleil show, nor a tribute show, nor a hagiography,” Nottage said in a January interview with the Chicago Tribune, referencing two prior Cirque treatments of the Jackson songbook. “We are endeavoring to tell the story of one moment in the life of a very complicated man whose life was very fraught.”

 

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The producers are probably calculating that by 2020 the documentary will have faded away and #MeToo will have died down.  The Jackson estate is playing hardball with HBO and the Jackson kids are threatening to sue Wade Robson and James Safechuck, presumably pour encourager les autres.

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I find this really frustrating.  A jukebox musical using Jackson's work could be astonishing (though Wheeldon would be far from my first choice as choreographer) -- whatever period you look at, the music is intensely danceable.  But an evening devoted to his life story is a different event, and even by 202 I don't think the controversy will have faded to the point that you could look past the scandal to anything else.

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19 hours ago, sandik said:

I find this really frustrating.  A jukebox musical using Jackson's work could be astonishing (though Wheeldon would be far from my first choice as choreographer) -- whatever period you look at, the music is intensely danceable.  But an evening devoted to his life story is a different event, and even by 202 I don't think the controversy will have faded to the point that you could look past the scandal to anything else.

I suspect that a small army of protesters would gather at or very near to the theater entrance for at least the early days of the run. In the worst case, there would be pro and anti Jackson factions facing off against each other. I can't imagine that the big theater organizations would be willing to take the risk, especially in the age of viral social media, unless they really did embrace the "any publicity is good publicity" line. 

And Wheeldon would be my last choice for choreographer. (Well, last after Wade Robson for obvious reasons.) 

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20 hours ago, sandik said:

I find this really frustrating.  A jukebox musical using Jackson's work could be astonishing (though Wheeldon would be far from my first choice as choreographer) -- whatever period you look at, the music is intensely danceable.  But an evening devoted to his life story is a different event, and even by 202 I don't think the controversy will have faded to the point that you could look past the scandal to anything else.

A jukebox musical using Jackson's work would benefit his estate, which is at present using its muscle to preserve Jackson's posthumous bankability

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But the Jackson estate has invested decades in trying to divert the public away from examining these stories too closely — as well as the many similar stories by other accusers and witnesses that emerged throughout the two decades of controversy surrounding the allegations against Jackson. As the conversation around Leaving Neverland has built, the estate has been vituperative in its dismissals of Robson, Safechuck, and the production itself.

 

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Wow.

There are just too many choice quotes but I quite liked this exchange:

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NOTTAGE I know that everyone wants us to say, “This is what we’re doing,” but we’re trying to figure out what we want to do day by day. We’re really trying to figure out how do we tell this story in a way that’s respectful.

Respectful to who?

NOTTAGE To all of us. To all of the people who are involved in the collaboration. Respectful to the music that was made. We’re doing the due diligence to think about how do you talk about the musical legacy of someone who was a genius but also came with a lot of baggage?

 

“Baggage,” forsooth! These were……children. I’m just dumbfounded.

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I think the material in MJ's life CAN be adapted. However, a jukebox musical is not the time and the place to do it. But maybe a play, where extremely difficult subjects can be tackled (thinking of Angels in America and Roy Cohn), or a TV series (thinking of what Ryan Murphy was able to do with Joan Crawford in The Feud). 

But I agree that the jukebox musical should be canned altogether. 

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I know I'm late to the discussion,  but I stumbled across this thread and found myself so upset that I was unable to sleep.  If others vehemently disagree with my opinions,  it's understandable perhaps,  but I feel compelled to express them.

I agree that Christopher Wheeldon is a poor choice to stage a show about Michael Jackson.  At no time in his career has he exhibited any knowledge or  interest in black American popular entertainment,  and his work has not exhibited any black influences.   (It's not just because he's British.  British musicians,  Mick Jagger,  Eric Clapton,  Steve Winwood and many others,  are well-known for taking inspiration from their assiduous study of black American musical forms.)  It's a great frustration to African Americans that people outside of our community are assumed to be better qualified than we are to tell our stories.  I wonder if Wheeldon has ever been to Gary,  Indiana or even knows where it is?  One afternoon there would tell you more about Michael Jackson and his family's drive and desire to succeed than any book.

But I am saddened,  frustrated and angered at the unceasing attacks on Michael Jackson,  a man who has been dead for ten years,  by liars and grifters whose allegations can be debunked by anyone who took high school journalism.  The scary part is that the mainstream media is completely aware that Robson and Safechuck are lying,  but the attempt to destroy the Jackson legacy suits their agenda.  Harvey Weinstein was known to pay tabloids to run negative stories on Jackson to deflect attention from his sexual misdeeds.  He still has friends in high places who are shaping the current negative,  united by their hatred and jealousy of the skinny black kid from Indiana  who is known and loved around the world.  (After this mockumentary  was released,  sales of Jackson's music and views of his videos went way up.)

Contrary to what is stated above,  other than defending Jackson's estate in court,  where Robson and Safechuck have been turned away multiple times,  the executors have done almost nothing to defend him.  It's his fans who have done the heavy lifting;  one young man from New Zealand,  with very little money,  produced such a polished defense of Jackson,  HBO assumed it had been made by the estate and cited it in their answer to the non-disparagement lawsuit against them.  Fans in France,  where there are laws against defaming the dead,  are suing the director Dan Reed for the symbolic sum of one euro.  Paradoxically,  right wing commentators such as John Ziegler and YouTube pundit Razorfish,  who are not Jackson fans at all,  have been the most vocal in defending him against Robson and Safechuck's ludicrous claims.

Anyone who believes that Michael Jackson  was guilty will no doubt continue to do so,  despite the total lack of any evidence.  But I am dismayed that Wheeldon and esteemed playwright Lynn Nottage would participate in the Broadway project when they obviously think he was a terrible "deeply-flawed"  human being.  I'm even more dismayed that they're getting paid by the Jackson estate,  which didn't  do their homework  or just didn't  care.  The Jackson children should pull the plug on this travesty,  but they have no say in how their father's affairs are administered.  

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1 hour ago, nanushka said:

I'm not sure how that would be possible, considering that this is a show about Michael Jackson.

There's also the issue of profiteering by the estate and the ongoing attacks on the credibility of his victims. I think Jackson's music should be accessible to anyone who wants to hear it, but a big jukebox musical is another matter entirely.

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3 hours ago, Mashinka said:

I think you have to separate the music from the creator, think Wagner, Gesualdo. 

In Britain we had paedophile pop singers, but they weren't as rich as Jackson so finished up in jail.

 

Bill Cosby is as rich as Michael Jackson and he's in jail.  Jeffrey Epstein is supposedly a billionaire and he's being held without bail pending trial.  When people make facile   remarks about Michael Jackson "getting off" because he was a rich man,  I wonder,  how exactly does that work?  Do you believe he bribed every officer  in the  LAPD  and the Santa Barbara Police Department that raided his homes twice with no notice and found no evidence against him?  How about the FBI,  which investigated him for ten years and found nothing?  It's not like they're known to go easy on black suspects.  They even tried to blackmail MLK.  Then there are the grand juries that refused to indict Jackson.  We have a saying in the US - a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich.  But they didn't  indict Jackson.  Think of the money to be made if even one person could claim to have been bribed  by Michael Jackson  and provided proof.  It never happened.

 

2 hours ago, dirac said:

There's also the issue of profiteering by the estate and the ongoing attacks on the credibility of his victims. I think Jackson's music should be accessible to anyone who wants to hear it, but a big jukebox musical is another matter entirely.

Royalties and streaming fees might represent profits,  but I've never heard them referred to as "profiteering".  There have been no ongoing attacks on Robson and Safechuck  by the Jackson estate,  although one could argue that there should be.  In fact they have disappeared from public view altogether.  They still owe the estate thousands of dollars in court costs from cases that they've lost.

Edited by On Pointe
Correcting autocorrect.
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In France Robson and Safechuck are getting sued by fans under France's defamation of the dead legislation.  The spokesman for the Jackson estate speaks wistfully of how nice it would be if we had such laws in the States - imagine, yet another avenue for intimidating accusers!

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In a statement, John Branca, co-executor of Jackson's estate, wrote: "We remain hopeful that a victory in France will soon fuel a movement in the United States to finally explore changes in the law to afford defamation protection for the deceased."

 

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