Yesterday, Today, & FOREVER The King of Pop

Michael Jackson: THIS IS IT Tour – Rehearsals & other behind the scene tidbits

Ray Waddell, Nashville

Michael Jackson is four weeks into rehearsals in Burbank, Calif.,
and with more than $85 million in the bank from ticket sales, the 
King Of Pop‘s return to the stage for 50 shows at London’s O2 arena
is looking increasingly profitable.

The shows begin July 8, Jackson’s first in 12 years.
Producer/promoter AEG Live has footed the bill for a $20 million
production, and the show layout is coming together. "Originally we
tried to keep the show down to 90 minutes, but Michael has so many
must-do songs in his repertoire that the shows now will be two-plus
hours," AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips tells Billboard.

Phillips would not reveal details of the production, but one could
expect a multi-media experience that would be "the most cutting
edge ever employed on a tour. We’re using technology that’s never
been used before in live entertainment."

The deal is set up where Jackson shares in net ticket revenue
which, according to Billboard calculations, would make Jackson’s
take on ticket sales alone north of $50 million, though Phillips
would not confirm this.

Tickets average about $115 and capacity for the shows will be about
15,000 per, taking the gross for the run to about $90 million.
Premium and VIP packages and secondary market sales will boost the
gross to more than $100 million. Merchandise sales could bring in
another $15 million.

Phillips says AEG Live is well-insured for the event. "We have one
policy in place and we’re negotiating for an even larger binder,"
says Phillips. "We have insured the production costs. In order to
get the first part of the insurance in place [Jackson] had to have
a physical, and he passed it with flying colors."

Phillips called the rehearsal process "exciting. We’re using two
soundstages, and Michael’s working in one with production designers
and choreographer/director Kenny Ortega and associate director
Travis Payne. And in the other one the dancers and the band –
killer musicians – are rehearsing the set and the choreography for
each song."

Dancer auditions were held April 13-15 at the Nokia Theatre in
L.A., with more than 700 dancers auditioning. We weeded it down to
200 by the third day, and Michael sat in on the final auditions and
chose the finalists with Kenny Travis and myself. Everyone’s locked

Jackson is now working out specific songs, though a top-to-bottom
dress rehearsal won’t be ready for a month. "Michael’s in
incredible physical shape, he’s got tremendous stamina, he’s been
working out aerobically preparing for this, and he is totally
engaged," Phillips says. "He sounds like Michael Jackson. He is
laser-focused on making this the greatest entertainment event that
fans have ever seen."

Various legal maneuvers by former Jackson associates attempting to
derail the shows are "completely meritless and have not impacted
rehearsals in any way," Phillips says. "We have a bona fide
contract, the deal’s in place, he’s performing, we’re performing."


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Video / Photos: THIS IS IT! Auditions & Rehearsal

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