By Jonathan Mussman
“Michael Jackson Immortal,” the latest Cirque du Soleil collaboration, had its US premiere Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Arena in Las Vegas. On hand to celebrate were a host of major celebs as well as Katherine, Tito and Jackie Jackson and Michael’s kids, who got a full backstage tour prior to the performance. Katherine and the kids entered the arena to a standing ovation from the crowd. “Michael would definitely be proud,” Jackie Jackson mentioned backstage following the performance. “He always loved Cirque performances, this show made the most sense for his fans,” added Tito Jackson.
In questioning how much of the “This Is It” concert segments were included in “Immortal,” Travis Payne, Michael’s long time choreographer, added, “All of the iconic ‘chunks’ as we know them including ‘Thriller,’ ‘Smooth Criminal’ and some things from Dangerous were not changed and we took those moments and brought them to this show and surrounded them with new ideas.” A few of the original “This Is It” videos and dance segments were included, helping make this arena-based show feel more like an actual MJ concert.
Unlike most highly innovative and creative Cirque shows, “Immortal” relies heavily on dancing and music elements in addition to the jaw-dropping aerial, trampoline and acrobatic acts we expect. Everything was set to an absolutely amazing MJ mash-up soundtrack mastered by musical designer Kevin Antunes, who felt like a kid in a candy shop when producing the score (album now available). “I was given full access to the MJ library with no restrictions,” he told MTV News. Working with family members, the estate and Sony archivists, Antunes was able to include legendary songs such as “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” as well as rarely (if ever) heard tracks from ABC and a Spanish-sung version of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” All of Michael’s leads are from recordings while the back-up and instrumentals are performed live.
Brilliant stage direction by Jamie King, also a long time MJ collaborator and VMA nominee, who helps bring both emotion and energy to each act.
The North American tour of “Michael Jackson Immortal” continues through summer 2012 in major US cities with a version of the show expected to eventually land in its own permanent theater at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas by 2013.