Court Victories Boost Michael Jackson Estate’s Revival Hopes

The life story of the late performer is being celebrated with Broadway and Las Vegas shows.

After a series of legal battles, the Michael Jackson estate is now looking forward to onstage victories: a musical based on the performer’s life is finally coming to Broadway and the Cirque du Soleil show is returning after being suspended by the pandemic. 

The estate had been appealing for a $700 million tax bill, which was ruled in May, significantly cutting it down. Lawsuits brought up by James Safechuck and Wade Robinson, the men who accused Jackson of child abuse in the 2019 HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, were dismissed in October and April, respectively. 

“I was always optimistic,” Jackson’s former attorney and co-executor of his estate, John Branca, told the Associated Press. “Michael inspired the planet and his music still does. There was never any doubt about that.” According to the publication, he expects that, in the next 18 months, the estate can be taken out of probate court and turned into a trust for Jackson’s three children – who are all over 18 now. 

The focus of the estate is now shifting back to introducing Jackson’s work to a new generation, starting with the revival of the Cirque du Soleil show Michael Jackson: One at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The show is set to come back on August 19, only ten days before what would have been Jackson’s 63rd birthday.

Then comes MJ: The Musical, the Broadway show that was originally set to debut in the summer of 2020. Rehearsals are now expected to resume in September, with previews beginning in December. The show is directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, and the show’s book was written by Lynn Nottage, with Myles Frost starring as Jackson. 

“It’s not a chronological depiction of Michael’s life,” Branca told the AP. “It’s more impressionistic, inspired by Michael’s life and his music. It takes place as Michael is preparing for a tour and MTV wants to get an interview. Michael’s very press shy, and slowly but surely as they develop a relationship begins to talk about different parts of his life that then get enacted in the show.”

Under Branca and co-executor John McClain’s guidance, the estate has reportedly brought in $2.5 billion in revenue over the past 11 years. Jackson remains the top-earning deceased celebrity every year since his sudden death in 2009. 

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