Dance as if your life depended on it. This could be the presiding philosophy of Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. Cirque du Soleil’s latest touring production melds Cirque’s signature acrobatics, puppetry and costuming with the sights and sounds that have come to symbolize the most successful performer of all time.
Immortal premiered on Oct. 2 in Montreal. Its three-week Las Vegas stint is the longest of the 68 cities it visits in North America, and a permanent incarnation of it will reside at Mandalay Bay in 2013.
The mystique of a Michael Jackson concert was established in the late-’80s. The performer revolutionized the live music experience on the Bad tour, setting the precedent for tours by George Michael (Faith), the Rolling Stones (Steel Wheels) and Madonna (Blond Ambition). Bad tickets were prized possessions, a once-in-a-lifetime musical opportunity. For the rest of us, we can now relive the experience with Immortal.
Taking on a legend isn’t easy. And nobody knows that better than Cirque, which has received mixed results with such collaborations. On one hand, it produced the phenomenal blockbuster The Beatles LOVE at The Mirage, which has seen critical and commercial success, and even won a few Grammys. On the other is Viva Elvis, which may be closing in a year because of poor ticket sales. Fortunately, with Immortal, Cirque has a few advantages it didn’t have with Viva Elvis. Jackson was a huge Cirque fan, which means that the collaboration will be more natural. And the King of Pop’s dance-heavy theatricality is a better match for Cirque’s elaborate productions than the King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s hip-swivels.
“Sure, we know Michael as the icon, but [in this show] we get to feel Michael’s heart,” says Jamie King, a longtime Jackson collaborator/choreographer who is Immortal’s writer/director. “Those are the things that touched me the most as a fan, and I hope that it touches the other fans as well.”
You can see Jackson’s heart in Immortal’s themes of love, peace and unity as achieved through the power of song and dance. Center stage is “The Giving Tree,” an homage to the tree Jackson would often visit at his home in Neverland Ranch. Just as the performer found inspiration from the oak, the action of the show seems to grow from the set piece. (Although it may be hard to recognize because the branches have been removed since the show’s opening, leaving a metal column.) Perhaps one of the best examples of how Cirque manifests Jackson’s performance legacy is Jean Sok “B.Boy Hourth.” He’s an artist who brilliantly executes all the legendary moves … with only one leg. Harkening back to the message of one of Jackson’s biggest hits, “Heal the World,” he’s still doing it, one step at a time.