Calling Michael Jackson ONE a monumental piece of stagecraft is correct. Calling it an assault is, too.
Departing Cirque du Soleil?s newest production at Mandalay Bay, my eyes were spinning counterclockwise and my ears were trying to recognize high and low pitches again. More importantly, my gut was trying to understand why it had been left untouched.
Creatively, ONE is a wonder to which hard-core Jackson-philes will flock. Yes, there?s a narrative?four kids on an Oz-like journey to Neverland, guided by The Spirit of Michael?but who cares? Try, instead, to keep a half-dozen eyes on the action in front, behind, beside and above you. Set to a greatest-hits compendium, it?s got, well, everything.
Morphing from number to number?with Jackson?s signature glove, fedora, loafers and sunglasses as totems along the way?it gives us dancers moonwalking and doing Jackson?s ?Smooth Criminal? forward-lean; huge video-projection montages of different-period Jacksons; a moon-child descending over the crowd, as does a woman on a half-moon float; performers surrounding you on inclined platforms extending from the stage; super-stuffed sets and catwalks; silhouetted images of Diana Ross and Liz Taylor; energetic acrobatics; and so much more.?
Too much more.?
Plus the ear-bleed decibel level courtesy of 5,596 speakers throughout the theater?175 main speakers and a whopping 5,421 of them in the seats.
Jadedness can set in from Cirque-fatigue?ONE gives it eight shows on the Strip?but three elements stand out amid the kaleidoscopic overload: Jackson-style dancers in costumes illuminated by LED lights in shifting rainbow colors onstage and dangling above during ?I Just Can?t Stop Loving You,? a truly mesmerizing effect; ghoulish, predatory? ?Thriller? zombies, limbs akimbo, prowling the aisles; and most excitingly, a holographic Jackson joining dancers for ?Man in the Mirror,? upstaging everything else onstage, as the real Jackson was wont to do.
Watching him in holographic form, though, sadly confirms that his singular presence, simply doing what he did so compellingly, makes the surreal hullabaloo surrounding his image seem gorgeously soulless.
Sure, Cirque is famed for sight-and-sound immersion, but ONE?s bang-bang set pieces fall prey to that old curse: the law of diminishing returns. Ultimately, the effect is less exhilarating than enervating, as if you?ve endured an onslaught. You?ve been Jax-ed to the max, but couldn?t really connect to the essence of his artistry through the cacophony.
Anyone who?s seen the HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra will note Michael Douglas as Liberace declaring: ?Too much of a good thing is wonderful.?
Michael Jackson ONE dazzles?and frazzles.
STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Got beer? As in doing the breaststroke in a sea of suds? Good news if you?re Sir Guzzle-a-Mug or Madam Swill-a-Stein. Every Saturday, ticket-holders for 10 p.m. performances of the Venetian?s Rock of Ages are invited to ?Drink Us Dry Saturdays? at the Zebra Lounge at the Palazzo.
Patrons can mega-imbibe domestic brew?for free?before showtime until the kegs are drained. Showgoers arriving at Rock of Ages sloshed for the ages? Performers should be braced for exceptionally interactive shows.?
Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.