The Los Angeles Times has a report on rehearsals for Michael Jackson’s upcoming run of shows at the O2 Arena in London–a residency that might be in jeopardy if a promoter who had a deal with Jackson to put on a Jackson 5 reunion show goes ahead with a lawsuit he’s been threatening. But those threats haven’t stopped the pop megastar from rehearsing his $20 million-plus, 20-song set in Burbank, behind guarded doors and with High School Musical choreographer Kenny Ortega to help him surpass the moonwalk, which he dropped on an unsuspecting audience during a performance of “Billie Jean” some 26 years ago:
The production budget is “north of $20 million,” a price tag that will include as many as 22 different sets, said Randy Phillips, the company’s chief executive.
“It’s going to be the biggest, most technologically advanced arena show — and the most expensive — ever mounted,” Phillips said.
On Monday, the company announced that choreographer and director Kenny Ortega, the force behind the movie “Dirty Dancing” and the “High School Musical” series, as well as Jackson’s Dangerous and HIStory tours, has signed on to direct and design the shows. Ortega agreed to work around his schedule as director of the planned remake of the 1984 movie “Footloose” to take on Jackson’s shows, according to AEG.
In a statement, Ortega called Jackson “the greatest entertainer of our generation” and said he was eager to collaborate with him again. “My answer without a beat was nothing could keep me away,” he said.
In Ortega, Jackson chose someone who has achieved what he could not — continuous cultural relevance after great success in the 1980s. He tapped as the show’s choreographer and associate director Travis Payne, who worked with Jackson in the mid-1990s. Payne’s recent work includes routines for Beyoncé and Madonna, as well as a “Dancing With the Stars” tribute to Jackson.
Also involved are younger choreographers who rose to prominence translating Jackson’s style for a new generation. Todd Sams, who has worked with Usher, is collaborating on the show, according to a representative, and Rich & Tone Talauega, a duo who have choreographed Chris Brown’s moves, were present for auditions last month.
Of course, all these attempts to modernize Jackson may be moot if the lawsuit goes through–he’ll have to learn another dance move, then!–but from the rest of the story, it sounds like the man who wanted everyone to call him the King Of Pop is slowly getting back into performing shape, if continually surrounded by the weirdness that has made him the most appropriate pop icon for America.
Michael Jackson rehearses near Burbank airport [LAT]
Le 1er moonwalk de Michaël Jackson (1983) [Dailymotion]