Following Michael Jackson's death on Thursday, 750,000 people who bought tickets to see him perform at the O2 in London will never get the chance to experience the stunning visual and musical spectacle the singer had in store for them. But, according to reports, AEG Live, the promoter of the "This Is It" 50-date residency, recorded enough of Jackson's rehearsal material to release at least one live CD/DVD.
Entertainment industry Web site The Wrap reports that Jackson's final rehearsal at the Staples Center on Wednesday was recorded in multi-camera, high-definition video and multi-track audio. The recording could be released as the singer's final album, according to unnamed sources close to the now scuttled tour, which was reportedly due to go around the globe following the O2 residency. The recordings were made as part of a deal cut by AEG Live with Jackson, which included plans to produce a live album and DVD of the singer performing his greatest hits. If the reports are true, the recording could help AEG Live recoup some of the estimated tens of millions of dollars it is expected to lose as a result of Jackson's untimely death. A spokesperson for AEG Live could not be reached for comment at press time.
The Wrap reported that Jackson had failed to appear at "many" of the scheduled rehearsals over the past two months, but he did appear at the full run-through on Wednesday in anticipation of the July 13 kick-off of the London shows. The final rehearsal reportedly included dancers, musicians and aerial performers, as well as Jackson suspended from a crane at one point and a 3-D view of a "Thriller"-inspired haunted mansion.
On Monday (June 29), USA Today pulled back the curtain on the closely guarded rehearsals, describing an over-the-top Jackson extravaganza that was to feature floating orbs, a flaming bed, lots of pyrotechnics, 20-foot-tall puppets, giant spiders and Jackson breaking out all his signature dance moves.
"He was trying, and succeeding, in structuring the biggest, most spectacular live production ever seen," said Johnny Caswell, co-owner of CenterStaging in Burbank, California, where Jackson worked on the show from late March to early June before shifting rehearsals to larger venues, according to the paper.
"By the time he left my facility, he had graduated through several studios and was on a soundstage taking up 10,000 square feet," Caswell said. "They moved to The Forum, outgrew that and needed the height at Staples. The show was getting so damn big, they couldn't finish it in time. That's why they had to delay." Caswell said reports that Jackson had delayed the start of the engagement due to health problems were "nonsense," explaining that the ballooning size of the production caused the push back.
While it has been reported that Jackson had been taking a number of powerful prescription medications prior to his death and that he died following cardiac arrest, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office has deferred determining his cause of death pending further toxicology tests.
Despite some suggestions that the frail singer with a history of medical problems might not have been strong enough to complete his first full-fledged tour in 12 years, according to USA Today, he was very engaged during Wednesday's final rehearsal at the Staples Center, where he worked with a crew of more than 80 dancers, choreographers, band members and crew to polish the show.
Jackson began what would be his final rehearsal by putting on a headset and walking to an elevated platform to sing the song "Dangerous," at first a cappella, then joined by his band.
"Misfits of Magic" founder Ed Alonzo, who worked on illusions for Britney Spears' Circus tour, joined the Jackson show six weeks ago. He said he designed a number of stunning effects for the King of Pop, including a glowing glass sphere that would float around Jackson and then into the crowd during the opening song, 1982's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." A version of "Dirty Diana" was to feature a flaming bed with a pole-dancing aerialist "playing the part of the fire," Alonzo said. After the fire woman pursued Jackson around the bed, she would tie him to the bed posts with gold rope, and a sheet of red fabric would spring up in front of him as he struggled in silhouette. When the sheet fell, it would be revealed that it was the woman struggling, not Jackson, and he would then materialize on a stage in the middle of the arena.
"It was an amazing show," Alonzo said. "The thing was just days away from being perfected. It was incredible. Even though it was just a walk-through with the dancers, his moves were dead-on — the same Michael Jackson we (saw) through the years in music videos." Alonzo said that while Jackson seemed underweight, he appeared to be in good health and was energetic during the rehearsal. Jackson's manager, Frank DiLeo, told the Hollywood Reporter that after finishing the final run-through around midnight on Wednesday, Jackson was feeling good about the show. "He found me and said, 'Frank, I am so happy. ... This is really our time.' He put his arm around me," DiLeo said.
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