Ephraim Sykes, a graduate of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, has left his starring role in the upcoming Broadway jukebox bio-musical MJ, about the life of Michael Jackson.
Washington D.C. native Myles Frost has replaced Sykes in the production, which was written by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage (Ruined, Sweat) and is being directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, who won a Tony Award for An American in Paris.
According to Variety, Sykes left the role because of scheduling conflicts.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I depart MJ,” Sykes said in a statement. “This year has brought a lot of change and opportunity, and although it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to an iconic role and production, I look forward to what is to come. Thank you to the MJ team and congratulations to Myles. I can’t wait to see you shine as the King of Pop and for us all to celebrate the return of Broadway.”
The New York Times reported in 2019 that the show is produced by the Michael Jackson Estate and Columbia Live Stage. The article stated that Nottage and Wheeldon “have previously said that the musical would focus on a period of time in the early 1990s when Jackson was preparing for a tour to promote his Dangerous album. Asked if the show would address the abuse allegations — which Jackson always denied — Mr. Wheeldon said in April that they would endeavor to ‘lean into the complexities, lean into the darkness, but also recognize the great amount of music and film and choreography that Michael left behind.’”
The production was due to open in 2020, but didn’t when the pandemic shut down Broadway. Previews are currently scheduled to begin Dec. 6, with opening night slated for Feb. 1, 2022, at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York City.
According to Playbill, one of Sykes’ conflicts is a role in season two of the acclaimed Netflix series Russian Doll, created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland. The series is filming now.
Sykes posted the news on Instagram and commented, “Soooooo honored to work with these geniuses!!”
A classically trained dancer, he’s appeared on Broadway in Hamilton and Newsies and on television in Hairspray Live.
In 2019, Sykes was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations. He won the Chita Rivera award for Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show for that role.