This Is It

Okay, I have to start by admitting this is the first time I've ever seen Michael Jackson perform. Because I read so much, I was always aware of the Jackson family dynamics, so from the time he made his debut as a small child, I avoided watching him for the same reason I avoid zoos: I recoil from seeing helpless creatures exploited.

This was to have been a comeback tour, starting in London (50 shows, all sold out) and, if everything went as they hoped, the beginning of a world tour. Jackson had spent over a decade focusing on his children and he wanted to get back in the game.

Director Kenny Ortega has done an amazing job of editing down 120 hours of rehearsal footage to give M.J. fans a candid behind-the-scenes look at the blood, sweat and tears that went into the preparation for a show that never happened. The caliber of artists involved only serves to highlight the sort of person Jackson was: he was a terrific musician with an uncanny ear. The dancers were from all over the world; they grew up watching his music videos, consequently they are a perfect out-picturing of their idol in his youth, complete with iconic moves: moonwalks, shoulder pops and crotch grabs.

Jackson wanted every selection to be a blockbuster and no one could refuse him. Consequently we saw spectacular after spectacular, each one an over-the-top production number. How a man his age could have sustained his voice and his health during that lengthy run in London was more than I could imagine.

I was impressed by how consistent each selection was: the tempo, the music, the choreography. They could switch from an early rehearsal to a much later one and the only discernible difference was in the polish. I was also impressed by the respect and affection shown M.J. by everyone from props and costumes to the dancers themselves. When there was a slight error, Jackson would say, "Don't worry about it, that's why we rehearse."

The audience responded to familiar selections: Billie Jean, Thriller and Beat It, as all three were world-wide best-selling videos, but they are only a sample from the multitude of blockbusters on the program.

All in all, this will be a one-of-a-kind experience and will no doubt top all the charts, from movie ticket sales to the inevitable CDs and DVDs. This troubled but talented man was beloved throughout the world.