Broadway's Michael Jackson Musical Lands Hairspray Live's Ephraim Sykes to Play Singer
Broadway’s upcoming Michael Jackson stage musical has its King of Pop.
Ephraim Sykes, the actor who starred as Seaweed J. Stubbs on NBC’s Hairspray Live back in 2016, has been cast as the legendary performer in MJ — the bio-musical about the legendary entertainer set to open on the Great White Way in summer 2020.
News of Sykes’ casting was announced on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Florida native has long treaded the boards, with roles in the original casts of Hamilton (2015), Motown (2013), Newsies (2012), and Memphis (2009).
He made his Broadway debut as a replacement in the ensemble of The Little Mermaid in 2008.
Currently, Sykes is portraying another popular figure in music: Motown star David Ruffin, in Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations. The role earned him a Tony nomination back in June, and a sea of accolades including the Chita Rivera Award and the Helen Hayes Award.
On Wednesday, he received a Grammy nomination, as a principal on Ain’t Too Proud‘s original cast recording, which is competing for best musical theater album.
Preview performances for MJ, which is directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, are set to begin on July 6, 2020 with an opening night set for Aug. 13, 2020.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage wrote the musical’s libretto, which is said to take place in 1992, just as Jackson is releasing his Dangerous album. The score will come from Jackson’s catalogue of hits, both as a member of the Jackson 5 and as a solo artist.
The musical comes as the public perception of Jackson has become even more divisive since the release of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland — which resurfaced allegations that he sexually abused young boys.
Leaving Neverland was released in January and focuses on the stories of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who claim that Jackson sexually abused them both as children. Prior to his death, the star had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and he was acquitted in a child sex abuse case leveled against him in California in 2005.
Still, the documentary had a lasting impact on Michael’s legacy; several radio stations took Michael’s hits out of rotation and the star’s 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch (now renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch) was put on the market at 70 percent off its original list price.
It’s unclear if or how MJ will handle the allegations. A pre-show run of the show, which used to be called Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, was cancelled ahead of its anticipated Chicago run.
Asked for comment, show spokesperson Rick Miramontez tells PEOPLE, “The production is not commenting on the content of show as it is in development.”
Tickets for MJ go on sale on Jan. 15, 2020, at 10 a.m. ET.