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Is Michael Jackson ready for his 50-date London residency?

May 12, 2009 | 11:47 am

Contrary to reports of impending concert disasters, frail health and nagging legal problems, the King of Pop is alive and well and gearing up here in Los Angeles for a series of career-defining shows in London.
The Times has uncovered a bunch of new details about his preparations.

In mid-April, producers held a two-day casting call at downtown Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre to staff backup dancers for “This Is It” -- Michael Jackson’s performance swan-song: his 50-date, seven-month concert residency at London’s O2 Arena.

Maya and Nandy McClean, who performed with Prince during his 21-date concert residency at the O2 Arena in 2007, were among the throng of professional dancers who turned up. According to the Australian-born twin sisters, some 400 men tried out for just six to eight male roles and around 200 women vied for two female parts. Moreover, the scene was something straight out of a Jackson video with people popping their pelvises, moonwalking and waving sequin-covered gloves everywhere you looked.

“These were serious fans,” said Maya McClean. “A lot of crazy Michael Jackson fans who grew up watching him.”

The McCleans did not land the gig but were debriefed about their contracts, which would have
committed them to the production for two years. They recalled producers asking if they had background “doing aerial stuff like Cirque du Soleil” — an important component of the stage show as evidenced by the aerial dance choreographers on hand. And before being dismissed into the hard afternoon sunlight, the sisters encountered Jackson, their childhood hero, who was overseeing Day 2 of the auditions from the Nokia’s bleachers.

“It was really dark in the auditorium,” said Maya McClean, “but his skin was definitely glowing in the dark.”

A story in today’s paper sheds more light on Jackson’s latest moves – such as hiring “High School Musical” mastermind Kenny Ortega to direct “This Is It.”

-- Chris Lee

Photo: John Shearer

Related: Michael Jackson rehearses near Burbank airport