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Monday, October 2, 2023

Life + Arts

The final thriller


Michael Jackson’s This Is It memorializes the life and music of the legendary performer through footage of the final rehearsals of his international comeback tour that never came to be.

Jackson’s death came weeks before he was slated to perform a series of concerts at London’s O2 arena from July 13, 2009 to March 6, 2010.

The documentary chronicles the rehearsals that happened at the Staples Center in Los Angeles from April through June.

This Is It opens with ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin” from Jackson’s best-selling album Thriller. Jackson looks like his old self throughout the film. He even sounds excellent.

There are many surprises in Jackson’s performances. During a rehearsal of ‘Smooth Criminal,’ Jackson and choreographer Kenny Ortega ran footage of Jackson as a 1940s gangster in the 1946 Rita Hayworth film Gilda.

More stage magic was used to multiply 12 dancers into an ensemble of thousands via green screen during ‘They Don’t Care About Us.’

The incorporation of video and theatrical elements into the performances are nothing short of breathtaking.

The ‘Thriller’ production features new video footage with dancers parading around devices with ghosts, as well as an animatronic spider.

One of the most romantic moments is when Jackson and backup vocalist Judith Hill launch into ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.’

During the 1987 ‘Bad’ world tour, then-unknown backup singer Sheryl Crow sang the duet. For the This Is It performance, Hill takes the reins and does a better job than Crow. Even the dancers watch in awe at the vocal power and chemistry between Jackson and Hill.

During his career, Jackson was no stranger to incorporating facets of rock ‘n’ roll into his music.

This Is It was no exception, exemplified in an extended guitar solo from lead guitarist Orianthi Panagaris during the performance of ‘Black Or White.’

The song ‘I Want You Back’ transitions into a Jackson 5 segment. However, Jackson does not do much singing, due to the fact that he is ‘adjusting to the inner ears (monitors) with a lot of l-o-v-e.’

Jackson continues the segment with a performance of ‘I’ll Be There,’ during which the cast and crew sway.

The piece concludes with the disco-themed ‘Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground).’

For ‘Billie Jean,’ viewers are reminded of the classic Michael Jackson ‘- the man who performed that same song on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special.

Jackson dons a fedora, performs his trademark moonwalk, and even performs a dance solo.

In the end, This Is It serves as a glowing memorial to the King of Pop and all the excellent music that he gave to the world.


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