Writer Michael Appler says that the musical’s PR firm removed him for asking “difficult” questions of the cast about abuse allegations surrounding Michael Jackson
Much attention is being paid to the new Broadway show, MJ The Musical, a production about the life and music of the late Michael Jackson. Fans are flocking to the show, while many critics have been zeroing in on its lack of attention to the child abuse allegations against Jackson during his life.
One such critic, Variety’s Michael Appler, says he was removed from the red carpet by the musical’s public relations agency, DKC/O&M, for asking cast members their feelings about whether it’s possible for audience members to separate the allegations from the music.
Myles Frost takes part in the curtain call with other cast members following “MJ” The Michael Jackson Musical Opening Night at Neil Simon Theatre on February 01, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Appler wrote that a representative escorted him away, stating that this wasn’t the appropriate time to ask those questions.
“I’ve been hearing you’re asking difficult questions,” one representative said. “Not on opening night. If you would like to ask real questions, you can schedule an interview with the cast.”
Appler further expressed his feelings about being turned away via his personal Twitter account. “Last night raises serious questions about the relationship between Broadway and the press who cover it, as well as producers’ willingness to foster a musical of this subject while ejecting meaningful criticism,” Appler tweeted.
Appler then criticized Broadway for being hypocritical about doing its own inward reflection while keeping journalists from doing the same. “After two years of calls for greater awareness on Broadway, how can its producers, theater owners, and publicity agencies meaningfully interrogate themselves while restricting the press from criticizing its productions?”
He did end his thread by complimenting the show, somewhat. “There is real artistry in this show. And had they not done this, I’d have written a story that drew a critical eye toward “MJ’s” rationale but nonetheless celebrated its artistic achievements. Shame, shame.”
Singer Michael Jackson performs during halftime at Super Bowl XXVII on jan. 31, 1993. (Credit: Mike Powell /Allsport)
Several publications that have covered MJ The Musical emphasized the lack of attention on allegations against Jackson. This includes The New York Times, who said that the show was “jarring” for not tackling the subject, despite the fact that the allegations came in 1993, one year after the storyline of the musical takes place.
Jackson was acquitted of all counts of child molestation in June 2005. In December 2009, six months following Jackson’s death, it was reported that he had been investigated by the F.B.I. for a decade and that no evidence was found to substantiate the accusations.
Speculation was renewed in 2019 in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, where dancer/choreographer Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who befriended Jackson as children, each claimed that Jackson abused them over several years.
However, numerous people that the two claimed also were abused came forward to deny it, including former child star Macaulay Culkin and Brett Barnes, who testified in Jackson’s defense in the 2005 trial.
Robson and Safechuck have made attempts to sue Jackson’s estate in numerous civil trials. However, judges have dismissed them all thus far.
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