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October 24, 2014

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Q+A: Jackie Jackson talks ‘Rocktellz & Cocktails’ run at Planet Hollywood

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Marlon, Jackie and Tito Jackson arrive at the red carpet for Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay on Saturday, June 29, 2013.

'Michael Jackson One': Red Carpet

Marlon, Jackie and Tito Jackson arrive at the red carpet for Cirque du Soleil's Launch slideshow »

Cirque du Soleil's 'Michael Jackson One' at Mandalay Bay

Cirque du Soleil's Launch slideshow »

It’s inevitable that whenever the four remaining Jackson brothers perform, they will always be asked about the fifth brother, the missing Michael. Until now, the Jacksons have kept tight-lipped about their sibling, who broke away from the brothers to go solo and became the world’s top pop prince.

But when Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito debut their “Rocktellz & Cocktails” residency show at Planet Hollywood on Feb. 20, audiences will hear secret stories about Michael.

Don’t expect them to address the tabloid tales that followed the youngest Jackson even after his death on June 25, 2009. They treasure his memory too much to spoil the good times they shared with him on tour.

However, there will be fascinating — and candid — never-before-told stories as part of the song-and-dance spectacle. Rehearsals have been underway in Los Angeles, and the brothers are trying to trim too much material, too many stories, too much music into a fast-moving, high-energy 90-minute show.

Now that they are getting ready to start final rehearsals here in Las Vegas, they have begun talking about how the show and the stories are coming together. I spoke with Jackie Jackson, who lives here in Las Vegas.

So, first, how are rehearsals going?

Oh, they’re going great, man. We’re just trying to put the songs together with the storytelling. You can’t tell too many stories because you don’t want to bore the audiences with long storytelling. They come to hear good music, as well, so we’ve got to make sure we balance the two.

Where does the show start in terms of your early lives? Back in Gary, Ind.?

Yes, back there with the music of “I Want You Back” and “ABC.” That’s how it started. You’ll hear both of those, along with “I’ll Be There.”

I’ve heard that your brothers and you are in the middle of recording a new album at the same time you’re getting this show ready.

Yes, that’s correct. The good thing about it is all the brothers will be here in town for the run of the show, so we’re getting set up to get a lot of work done and record the tracks right here in Las Vegas.

How do you all feel about re-creating this extraordinary journey that you all took?

We’re so excited about this show in Las Vegas. We played here a while back, more than 20 years ago, with the whole family. So a lot of memories come flooding back. We can’t wait to come back to a Las Vegas stage. Every time we walk into rehearsals and you’re back together with your brothers and you start singing some of the songs, we all have different memories.

We’re trying to decide which songs we’re going to do and which stories to tell because there are so many. Trying to fit all these songs into a 90-minute show is the most challenging part of putting the show together. We’ll just give the audiences the best songs that we can.

There are so many, Robin. You know what, we will have to do a version of them all or hook some of them onto others so we can take ourselves and the audience back down memory lane.

Now obviously you’re going to have to tell some stories about Michael.

Absolutely, I can’t tell you everything, Robin; I can’t give it away. I can’t. … (Long pause) OK, it’s going to be stories that people didn’t know about Michael, and they really should hear them. There are stories going back to Gary, Ind., days. Stories when we were all touring. He used to hide under our beds. When Jermaine would have a girl over, Michael would hide under the bed.

You are all going to learn something new. We’ve got a lot of videos, too, that nobody has seen before, a lot of great stuff for the show. It’s going to be great. Any time we ask someone in the audience to come see us, we’re going to bring them up onstage. If you stand up and Marlon sees you, he’ll bring you up. I’m telling you right now that if you don’t want to be onstage, then don’t stand up!

Opening Night of Meat Loaf in ‘Rocktellz & Cocktails’

Opening night of Meat Loaf in Launch slideshow »

Did any of you have any hesitation about doing “Rocktellz & Cocktails”? Did you all want to do it and share some never-before-told stories?

No, no one had any hesitation whatsoever. We were excited about playing Las Vegas, and we’ve wanted to do this for a long time. When producer Adam Steck came to us and asked if we wanted to do it, we all said yes immediately.

Adam has created this unique format of where you tell stories about and around the songs that we’ve never known about. Did you see it with Meat Loaf when he debuted the concept?

Yes, I did. I went backstage with him, had a meeting with him, talked with him, and he was enjoying the format and confident that it would be successful.

So do you like it — telling untold stories, showing private family videos that haven’t been seen before? Are you finally getting to tell the stories the way you want to tell them?

Yes, for once you’ll get the true versions. There are all the brothers telling stories of exactly what happened. It’s our version of the truth — and not anybody else’s untruths.

We’re still tweaking the show, cutting it, still playing around with it. We don’t quite have it down to the exact number of minutes. We’ll do that now that we’re moving the final rehearsals to Las Vegas. Opening night is Feb. 20, and that’s not that far away now. Some nights, we’ll alternate with Meat Loaf’s new run.

We’ll do our shows Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There will be some overlap nights when both shows are on. It’ll be fun to see how that works out. All of us are looking forward to it. We can’t wait. It’s going to be great!

For the first time, you’ll get the truth of how the Jacksons started. How things came about. Our ups and downs. It’s all Jacksons all the time. The whole focus of the show is high energy, dancing, music and lights.

Audiences will walk away feeling great, singing our music, and they’ll feel that they really got to know us individually and as a family. We’ll feel good, and I know they will, too.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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