Jackson Recruits Old Pal For Tour

When Michael Jackson hits the stage at the O2 arena for his 50 concerts in London this summer, he'll be bringing a bit of Hollywood along with him.

That would be Kenny Ortega, the director, producer and choreographer who is collaborating with the King of Pop on the overall design and direction for the upcoming "This Is It" shows.

Ortega directed and choreographed the three Disney "High School Musical" films, and has previously worked with Jackson on his "Dangerous" and "HIStory" tours. He also produced and directed Barbara Streisand's "Millennium" tour and earned two Emmys for his work as director and choreographer of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

When Jackson asked him to lead the team, Ortega said he agreed immediately.

"My answer, without a beat, was nothing could keep me away," he said in a statement. "To be invited to partner with him again is a dream come true. Working with Michael is always a true and full partnership. He…inspires each and every one of us to climb to new places, break out of the box and conquer new challenges. He is the most significant artist and entertainer of our generation."

"This Is It" will incorporate iconic Jackson songs and choreography mixed with original new works. Looking back will be a major theme, according to U.K. entertainment columnist Neil Sean. Sean spoke to sources with knowledge of the performances in March who said that the shows will remind fans of Jackson's achievements and the people who influenced him, such as the late Princess Diana.

Some other stars may also turn up on stage with Jackson - one of Sean's sources said that names like Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown have been tossed around as possible guest stars.

"Our show goals are to create more than a concert but a complete theatrical musical experience with a dynamic balance that features Jackson in both spectacular production and intimate settings," Ortega said. "The stage set, choreography, costumes, lighting, effects and overall production will be of the highest standard."

Tickets for the 50-show series, which kicks off on July 8, sold out in a matter of hours on March 13. By the time the shows end in February 2010, more than 1 million people will have seen Jackson perform.

Randy Phillips, president and CEO of AEG Live, called the demand for tickets "unprecedented."

"[The concerts] turned a normal public on-sale into a cultural phenomenon and pushed the boundaries by which we measure success," he continued. "Michael and Kenny are creating an escapist adventure that will take the audience on an entertainment experience only imagined in dreams or big-budget motion pictures. This is the perfect pairing of unique creative talents with the greatest repertoire in contemporary music."

Jackson is said to be "tremendously excited" about the upcoming shows. This week, rehearsals are in full swing and casting is in final stages for the dancers and the band, and Ortega says he's excited to be on board.

"I am thrilled to be a part of the team that once again is bringing Michael Jackson, the greatest entertainer of our generation, back to the stage and into the light and love of his devoted fans."