Producers knew that casting the lead role in MJ, the new Broadway-bound musical inspired by the life of Michael Jackson, would be no easy feat; it would take a supremely talented and charismatic actor to step into Jackson’s famous shoes. So there was a giant sense of excitement when Tony Award-nominated Broadway veteran Ephraim Sykes (Ain’t Too Proud) agreed to step up to the challenge. The show’s Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris) explained, “Ephraim is a bonafide triple threat” — referencing the rare and coveted combination of acting, singing, and dancing chops required to pull off a part like this one. He added, “We knew in an instant that we had found our Michael.”
Fans won’t have a chance to glimpse Sykes as the pop superstar until MJ begins preview performances at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre on July 6, 2020 (it officially opens on August 13), but in some ways, the actor has been preparing for this role his whole life. He told Essence, “Growing up, I always wanted to be like [Jackson]. It was literally my wildest dream.”
Just last week, the production, which features a book by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage (Ruined, Sweat), announced a slew of additional casting that represents a diverse mix of new and established talent culled from the dance, music, and theater worlds, including Grammy Award-nominee Quentin Earl Darrington, Whitney Bashor, Gabriel Ruiz, Antoine L. Smith, Joey Sorge, Darius Barnes, Raymond Baynard, Coral Dolphin, John Edwards, Ayana George, Kali May Grinder, Apollo Levine, Ryan VanDenBoom, Lamont Walker II, Naomi C. Walley, and Zelig Williams. Still more casting is yet to come, including the young Michael Jackson of the Jackson 5 era, for which a series of open calls are being planned from coast to coast.
While the production team continues preparing to bring the era-defining music of Michael Jackson to an entirely new medium, fans finally have a chance to order tickets for MJ the musical, which are now officially on sale.