Starring: Michael Jackson, Kenny Ortega, Michael Bearden
Directed by: Kenny Ortega (“High School Musical”)
Michael Jackson is probably one of only a handful of musical performers who could make rehearsing for a show just as exciting as seeing the real thing. In “This Is It,” a behind-the-scenes homage to the late superstar, Jackson may not be singing and dancing to his full ability for some scenes, but even at half-speed he proves why his talent has spanned through generations.
No matter what you feel about Jackson as a person because of the controversy that has surrounded him most of his adult life, there’s no denying what a great showman he was when the spotlight hit him and his music started pumping through the speakers. He was a perfectionist; a man possessed with the need to entertain.
Edited from hundreds of hours of rehearsal footage for what was leading to a series of sold-out concerts in London this past summer, “This is It” is a rare glimpse into a performance that never came to fruition. In June, Jackson passed away leaving his fans wondering what he had in store for them with what he referred to as his “final curtain call.”
Unfortunately, Jackson was not able to take his last bow. “This Is It” fills that void reasonably well for his legion of followers. While the backstage footage doesn’t necessarily break any ground in terms of what we already knew about Jackson, it does give a sense of just how personal each of his performances were to him. It also shows us the complete control he maintained over every nuance of the dazzling shows he created.
It’s amazing to watch all of this unfold as Jackson’s creativity mixes well with some major technical aspects to the show (green screens, pyrotechnics, makeup, visual effects). Jackson wasn’t planning to be the star of a concert as much as he was a monumental stage experience. Imagine a team of 11 dancers transforming into 11 million with green-screen technology and then moving to some sharp choreography. There’s also a reimagining of Jackson’s hit songs “Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal” that will likely keep you smiling through every move and miscue.
Remember, this is just a practice session, but Jackson and his small team of technicians, musicians and dancers have given us a treat even if it’s for curiosity’s sake. And when we’re talking about Jackson, who can really say they’re not at least a bit intrigued even after he’s gone? With “This Is It,” those who loved him will cherish both his eccentricities and gifts as an entertainer.