Entertainment Music Michael Jackson shows to continue at Adelaide Fringe despite Leaving Neverland controversy

Michael Jackson shows to continue at Adelaide Fringe despite Leaving Neverland controversy

The Fringe show Jackson Vs Jackson features the music of pop siblings Michael and Janet.
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Michael Jackson tribute artists, as well as other musicians he has inspired, say they will continue to perform his songs despite allegations of child sex abuse against the pop star.

The documentary Leaving Neverland, which aired in Australia last week, details claims from Australian-born choreographer Wade Robson and American James Safechuck that Jackson abused them as children in the 1990s.

The film has also triggered furious debate about whether Jackson’s music should continue to be played, and the extent to which it is possible to separate the art from the artist.

Some radio stations in Canada and the Netherlands have since committed to not airing any of Jackson’s songs.

An old episode of The Simpsons featuring the voice of Michael Jackson has been pulled from all future broadcasts.

His music appears in at least six shows at this year’s Adelaide Fringe festival, and features prominently in the award-winning production Jackson Vs Jackson.

The show includes singers, dancers, a band and a backing choir performing hits by Michael and Janet Jackson.

Asked whether there had been a backlash against the show, lead performer and director Charmaine Jones told the ABC the production had been “incredibly fortunate”.

“It’s important to separate the art from the artist as their legacy in what they brought to the world … cannot be argued,” she said in a statement.

“Our audiences have been so complimentary of the music, arrangements and standard of performance.

“I tell the story of historic and pivotal musicians without bias or prejudice.”

Ms Jones said she had not seen Leaving Neverland, and their upcoming shows would continue.

Charmaine Jones takes a lead role in Jackson Vs Jackson.

Singer Kim Spargo, who is behind another Fringe show A Tribute to Michael, told the ABC her sold-out show would go on as planned.

“I am not one in a position to say whether he is innocent or guilty and I never will be … so I cannot make a judgement call on what he did or didn’t do,” she said.

A Tribute to Michael focuses on the work of musicians called Michael, but opens with a five-minute medley of Jackson’s songs.

Ms Spargo said Jackson’s life should be separated from his music and added that she “wouldn’t burn the Mona Lisa” if Leonardo da Vinci’s reputation ever came into question.

“I believe that it can stand alone from the controversy … I think we should continue to play it and I think we should continue to listen,” she said.

“I haven’t experienced any backlash whatsoever about using his music within the show, in the period of time since we’ve seen this news come to light.

“I am not celebrating the person behind the music, I’m celebrating the music.”

‘His music is way too important’

Another tribute artist not performing at the Fringe, Sydney-based Jason Zamprogno, acknowledged the allegations could have an impact on his business.

Jason Zamprogno performs as a Michael Jackson impersonator. Photo: Jason Jackson

However, the 44-year-old construction worker, who performs under the stage name Jason Jackson, is convinced his idol is innocent.

“I perform nearly every weekend. I do shows like weddings and corporate events,” he said.

“I’m still going to do shows and do Michael Jackson, but if people don’t want to hire me, that’s fine.”

Mr Zamprogno said Jackson had “played a huge part” in his life, and said the pop star’s music helped him through a major health battle when he was a child.

“I had this rare form of bone cancer and I had to have this treatment and while I was having the treatment I discovered Michael Jackson, and he played a huge part in my life,” he said.

“I don’t think that his music will die – his music is way too important.”

Jackson’s estate fighting claims made in documentary

In 1993, Michael Jackson was sued by a family who claimed the singer sexually abused their son, Jordan Chandler.

Police in California investigated but did not file charges and the matter was settled for an undisclosed amount, but with no admission of guilt.

In 2003, the singer was charged with molesting a different boy, but was found not guilty in 2005.

In the four-hour Leaving Neverland documentary, Mr Safechuck and Mr Robson described the alleged abuse and how they came to terms with it as they grew older, married and had children of their own.

Both men had defended Jackson in previous court action against the star.

Jackson’s family, his estate and his supporters have said this shows they cannot be considered credible.

The estate is suing broadcaster HBO for $100 million over airing the documentary.