Michael Jackson Fans Turnout for D.C. Premiere of €This is It€

Edith Billups | 11/4/2009, 9:07 p.m.

Gray skies and a steady rainy didn€t stop more than 800 area fans from attending the D.C. premiere of Michael Jackson€s much anticipated movie, €This Is It,€ Tue, Oct. 27 at the Uptown Theater in Northwest.

The two-hour documentary shows the King of Pop rehearsing for the concert that would have been his comeback after a long slump in Jackson€s singing career. Ironically, in death, Jackson has become more popular than ever, with fans flocking to see the movie that shows intimate, behind the scenes images of Jackson during the creative process, rehearsing old hits and new material, that included the classic €Thriller € in 3D.

Those lucky enough to snag a ticket to the D.C. opening responded favorably to the movie. Jackson performs megahits that include €Wanna Be Startin Somethin,€ €Human Nature,€ €Beat It€ and €Billie Jean.€ Audiences learn about the complexities of preparing for a major concert and the detail that Jackson devoted to the process, including figuring out segues, rehearsing new dance steps while perfecting musical arrangements.

Thanks to the magic of special effects and technical wizardry, images include Jackson catching a glove tossed to him by 40s screen siren Rita Hayworth from the 1946 film €Gilda€ and even being shot at by actors Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson in a gangster scene. To the thumping beat of €Smooth Criminal,€ the King of Pop is decked out in a white suit and fedora as Bogart €pursues€ him through a building before Jackson escapes by €leaping€ through a window.

Other scenes include Jackson dancing with a female singer and the pop king instructing a pianist on how to play one of his most famous hits. €You have to let it simmer,€ said Jackson who is seen as a hands-on entertainer who was involved in the most minute details of his show, including sound and even stage direction.

Fans like Noel Drinkard, 38, of the District said that he grew up on Jackson€s music. €I loved the movie,€ he said. €You got to see the real down to earth side of Michael, making it even more tragic that we lost such a giant in the entertainment industry,€ he said.

The movie includes interviews with several of the four singers, 13 dancers and numerous instrumentalists who worked with Jackson on his 50-concert performance, scheduled to begin July 9th at London€s 02 Arena. Bashir Johnson, a percussionist, called Jackson, €one of the greatest entertainers of all times.€ Judith Hill, a vocalist, talked about his professionalism and others, like choreographer Travis Payne, lauded Jackson for is extraordinary talent.

The behind the scenes images show an energetic Jackson who continued to thrill audiences with stunning dance moves, but who also had a quirky and dramatic side that could be extremely funny. More than once, the singer apologized for €saving his throat,€ for the actual show but told a female singer that €you can use yours.€ Jackson also exhibits a playfulness, often trading comical quips with director Kenny Ortega. Deborah Anderson, a D.C. accountant, said one of the most endearing things about the movie was seeing Jackson€s gentle side. More than once, the pop star said €God bless you,€ after discussing a dance move or song lyric with one of his colleagues.

Jackson€s concern about humanity and the planet also are revealed in his 1996 hit, €They Don€t Care About Us,€ and in €Earth Song,€ a protest against the destruction of the rainforest. At the movie€s completion, Jackson personally thanks his colleagues, encouraging them to make the upcoming concerts an €adventure€ for their fans and notes €we are all one family,€ and €it all is about love.€

The movie, €This Is It€ is being promoted as a tribute to Jackson€s extraordinary career. Prior to the screening, 30 youngsters from the Multi-Media Training Institute in Northeast performed a dance routine to some of Jackson€s biggest hits.

Lyn Dyson, president of the institute, said they were pleased to be a part of the tribute. €We were happy to participate because it was historic in that this is the final chapter of Michael Jackson€s life that is being presented to the public. The kids were very excited to be there.€

€This Is It€ has a limited two week run and fans continue to grieve the pop star€s June 25th death can visit www.ThisIsIt-Movie.com to check local theaters for dates and screening times.