Will London audiences welcome Michael Jackson musical after abuse allegations?

 (MJ the Musical on Broadway)
(MJ the Musical on Broadway)

A theatre in Soho is bracing for kickback as it prepares to put on a Michael Jackson show that fails to address his abuse allegations. The Prince Edward Theatre on Old Compton Street, owned by theatre impressario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, has recently decided on its cast for MJ the Musical, which starts next March.

It is the first major Jackson show to hit London since Leaving Neverland, the 2019 documentary that featured men describing how Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. Allegations have been denied by Jackson and his estate.

The show, which has been a hit on New York’s Broadway, gets around the problem by being set in 1992, the year before the singer was first publicly accused of abuse. It deals with his financial woes, drug use, and trauma from childhood. On its release, the New York Times said that the “looming question” was: “How would the show grapple with allegations that the pop singer molested children?”. “The answer: it doesn’t.”

A theatre insider tells The Londoner that some are surprised it has been seen as appropriate to put on the show, and that producers are making a gamble British audiences are ready to watch Jackson material again.

An older Jackson musical, Thriller, was on at the West End for around a decade but closed at the start of the pandemic. The Prince Edward is large, with a 1,700 capacity, so it will take some filling. The theatre were approached for comment.

Broadcasters try to channel good times

Both ITV and the BBC are trying to put scandals behind them this week.

 (Robbie Griffiths)
(Robbie Griffiths)

At the BBC, a spy tells us a screen in the newsroom that once showed the face of presenter Huw Edwards has been swiftly changed. It’s been replaced by a snap of politics star Laura Kuenssberg. Director-general Tim Davie was seen on Monday going to When Winston went to War with the Wireless, a play about the broadcaster’s battles with the Government in the 1920s, with former-DG John Birt. Looking for tips?

Michael Douglas, Davina McCall and Charlotte Hawkins  seen attending ITV Summer Party at The Mandrake Hotel (Photo by Ricky Vigil M / Justin E Palmer/GC Images)
Michael Douglas, Davina McCall and Charlotte Hawkins seen attending ITV Summer Party at The Mandrake Hotel (Photo by Ricky Vigil M / Justin E Palmer/GC Images)

Meanwhile, ITV had its summer party at Fitzrovia’s Mandrake Hotel last night. There were GMB’s Charlotte Hawkins, and Davina McCall with her hairdresser partner Michael Douglas. There’s been strife at the channel since Phillip Schofield left in May, and it was notable that his former on-screen partner Holly Willoughby chose to stay away.

Yomi’s book has echoes of Huw

Rising star Yomi Adegoke launched her debut novel, The List, at club 1 Warwick last night, posing with actor Sheila Atim. Rumour is Adegoke got a large six-figure advance from her publisher. She used some cash to pay off her sister’s university debt. The novel follows a sex scandal that embroils a famous journalist. “It’s been crazy how much life is imitating art right now,” she told us this week, urging caution before rushing to judgment. “We’re in the midst of a fake news crisis,” she said of the Huw Edwards affair. “I think having all of the facts before reporting something is really important.”

Rishi vs Penny in final summer drinks

To ring in the summer recess last night, the Prime Minister invited parliamentary journalists to drinks at Downing Street, perhaps buttering them up before some likely by-election disasters today. A number of guests took photos outside the black door. But there was another party in Westminster too.

The PM’s former leadership rival Penny Mordaunt hosted a bash nearby with marketing firm Team Lewis. Thirty Tory MPs not at No 10 saw the Royal Marines band. Is Penny on manoeuvres? We assume the double-booking was entirely innocent.