Michael Jackson’s Thriller Live is getting an extension – and that’s a problem

Only a few weeks after the shocking "Leaving Neverland" documentary aired, the "Thriller Live" musical has extended its run in the West End. This begs the question, how can people so easily separate the singer's alleged actions from his cultural impact?

If you were thinking that we’d hear less from Michael Jackson following the recent allegations of child abuse in the documentary Leaving Neverland, today’s news that the singer’s West End musical Thriller Live has been extended is a stark reminder that money talks.

‘Can’t Stop The Music! Thriller Live extends its record breaking run until April 2020′, read the title of the email to hit my inbox announcing the news. Yet all that exclamation mark could make me feel was exasperation over the reality that, despite the furore that has surrounded the artist for many years and has recently been amplified, he will be with us for many more years yet. Clearly, there is still an audience who want to willingly engage with his music and can easily separate it from the alleged child abuse claims. This is what I find especially challenging.

In all honesty, I don’t believe that Michael’s legacy could ever realistically be fully erased. Not only would that be impossible as his songs are sewn into every wedding, school disco and birthday party, but it would also be just as problematic to erase his music from our lives as it would be to acknowledge its presence and move on.

As with statues of figures from the colonial period of British history which we now view as intensely unsavoury in its racial and social attitudes – say, the Cecil Rhodes statue in Oxford – it is more problematic to “erase” their wrongdoings, than it is to acknowledge their role in history and learn from it.

In a perfect world, I’d like to see the same kind of treatment for the singer. I’d like to see DJs stop playing him in clubs, outlets stop selling his music commercially, and producers stop selling tickets to a show about his music. These are all things we can control, rather than historic moments that we can’t.

French fashion house Louis Vuitton is on board with my theory. In the wake of the allegations surrounding the documentary, the brand removed the pieces inspired by the singer from its forthcoming Autumn/Winter 2019 collection, for which creative director Virgil Abloh was heavily inspired by the singer’s music videos.

In reality though, this extension is set to make the musical the 13th longest-running in West End musical history – and a very visible endorsement of the singer in our city. That makes any chance of moving on incredibly hard.

We approached the press team at Thriller Live for comment but have so far not received a response.