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Director, producer of comeback concerts foresee a Michael Jackson tribute

June 30, 2009 |  7:33 pm

Though plans have yet to be confirmed, Kenny Ortega and Randy Phillips envision a splashy celebration of the pop star's life with family friends and others in the mix.


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The director and producer of Michael Jackson's comeback concerts want to mount a splashy tribute to the late entertainer using some of the choreography, costuming, musical staging and films Jackson created for his 50-date "This Is It" concert run at London's O2 Arena.

Plans are not confirmed, and the logistics of such an undertaking are only beginning to be explored.

But Randy Phillips, CEO of the concert promoter behind Jackson's comeback performances, AEG Live, said in an interview Monday with Britain's Sky News that a concert based on "This Is It" was likely.

He described having Jackson family members and other pop stars take part using the choreography and sets created for the London concert residency.

"At some point the world needs to see this production and I would imagine it could be done as a tribute with the family, with the brothers performing, some sisters, and the stars that were influenced by him," Phillips said. "We are discussing with the family so the sooner, the better."

Kenny Ortega, who worked with Jackson on the conception of the show and rehearsed the singer and his dance troupe for the last four months, said he hoped to find a way to pay tribute to Jackson's "mind, talent, vision and heart" in a way that would reach his global fan base.

"Maybe part of what we were planning to do in London and beyond -- maybe we can share some of these ideas in a different capacity," Ortega said last Thursday, just hours after Jackson's death.


The longtime Jackson collaborator is the choreographer-director behind such hits as "Dirty Dancing," "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour." 

Ortega said that he was "only imagining," but outlined a broad idea for a creative collaboration modeled on "We Are the World," the 1985 song written by Jackson and Lionel Richie to benefit African charities that enlisted pop superstars including Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross.

"It wouldn't take an enlightened thinker to come up with a way," Ortega said. "There must be a hundred ways we can celebrate this man's legacy. Broadway. Movies. Vegas. I hope all his artist friends will come together and have a real 'We Are the World' where we can share stories and Michael's legacy in some great celebration. I'm sure they would love nothing more than to be a part of it."

Jackson hired concert magician Ed Alonzo to create two illusions for the concerts, including one set to the singer's hit single "Dirty Diana" that featured a flaming bed with a pole-dancing aerialist. 

Alonzo said he had not spoken with Ortega or anyone at AEG about carrying on work with the production but is open to the idea. "Nobody has talked to me about it, but I would be happy to do something like that," Alonzo said.

Contrary to an earlier report by MSNBC, Madonna has not agreed to take part in a Jackson memorial concert. "Madonna's management has not been contacted about this and are unaware of it," her publicist Liz Rosenberg said.

Such a tribute would follow a precedent set by other superstar performers who have continued to have an impact on popular culture with new work from beyond the grave. Since the 1996 shooting death of rapper Tupac Shakur, six albums of previously unreleased studio music have been unveiled -- nearly all of them topping the national album chart or hip-hop and R&B chart.

And in 2006, Cirque du Soleil launched its popular theatrical revue "The Beatles: Love" in Las Vegas, a theatrical spectacle involving dance, film and aerial acrobatics that "reimagines" the music of the Fab Four. It continues to run there. 

Ortega added: "I hope there's a way to be able to still make that happen for Michael. He was so in love with this project and involved in the creation of all of it. This is some of his greatest work for sure."

--Chris Lee


Photo credit: Michael Jackson's rehearses at the Staples Center. Credit: AEG / AP

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