A series of photos depicting a smiling and dancing Michael Jackson taken just two days before the superstar died from a sudden cardiac arrest have emerged. The rehearsal photos taken on June 23rd were snapped at Los Angeles’ Staples Center during a practice session for Jackson’s planned This Is It! run of 50 concerts at London’s O2 Arena. The rehearsal was supposed to be one of the final run-throughs before Jackson and the entire production shipped off to London in preparation for the show’s July 13th premiere; he also attended a several-hours-long session the following day, June 24th. (See the rest of the released photos from Jackson’s rehearsal here.)
The images — taken by photographer Kevin Mazur on behalf of AEG Live, who were producing Jackson’s This Is It! shows — show a gaunt but smiling Jackson practicing his choreography with his back-up dancers. The shots also provide a peek at what the 750,000 who purchased tickets to the London shows could have expected to see starting in July, as the show was reportedly going to feature more than two dozen sets and countless wardrobe changes (including the pictured Moonwalker wardrobe) as Jackson’s performance spanned his career of hits. The production was being overseen by Kenny Ortega, and according to USA Today featured floating orbs, a flaming bed, pyrotechnics, 20-foot-tall puppets, giant spiders and at one point, 3D glasses for the performance of “Thriller.”
While the show sadly never made it to London, Hollywood news site The Wrap reports that fans may eventually see Jackson’s final rehearsal, as well as footage from the over 100 hours of rehearsals filmed by AEG Live. An unspecified AEG Live source told the Wrap’s Sharon Waxman that the final practice was recorded with hi-def cameras and stereo sound by the concert promoter. As AEG Live faces over $81 million in ticket refunds, a source at the company reportedly said, “We have a live album in the can,” referring to the This Is It! practices, and that the Staples Center final rehearsal might end up as a DVD or a theatrical release.