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My first Cirque du Soleil experience was “Saltimbanco” under their blue and yellow tent on the beach.  It was reminiscent of a European one-ring circus. It just worked. It was perfect.

I grew up listening to Michael Jackson music and I was very interested to see what the “Immortal World Tour” by Cirque du Soleil would achieve. Held at the Time Warner Cable Arena, it had all of the visuals you would expect from a Cirque show—creative acts, wonderful multimedia and sound, but I couldn’t get a cohesive through-line watching the show.

To hear the sounds and clarity of Michael’s voice with great live musicians and backup singers was truly amazing. Director, Jamie King, had a vision. He went to the Neverland Ranch to create his production and I could see it in his approach with the large gates and bronze sculptures that came to life.

In the audience, there was a one-year-old child sitting on her father’s lap in front of me. When the music started, she started to dance and smile from ear to ear. That was Michael Jackson’s music. That was pure enjoyment.

As the show unfolded, there was an urban skyline with subways, city graffiti and clowing Fanatics, played by Tomohiko Tsujimoto, Leo Moctezuma and Levan Torchinava.   The song “Childhood” was very touching with Michael asking, “Have you seen my childhood?” I felt sadness, but not for long as “Wanna Be Starting Something” started with drums! The screens showed cartoons of the Jackson 5 in 1968 attire and Jackson afro-wigged clowns appeared.

At one point, the music was so loud it was distorting on “Dancing Machine,” although the audience was enjoying the entertainment and pointing to the performers.

The poignancy dissipated and I was thinking that although Michael Jackson has left us, the production machine is still finding an opportunity to make money off the icon.

The electric cello player, Tina Guo, took center stage in a solo, which was very impressive and strongly seductive. For Michael’s “Smooth Criminal,” the aerial acrobats in period costumes were artistically poised, as they read newspaper headlines of the day on tall street poles. Pole dancer, Anna Melnikova, did her piece to “Dangerous.”

My favorite visual of the show was during “Human Nature,” the aerialists with LED lights in a darkened arena lost their human form and became star clusters against the projected sky. The theme of a ticking clock persisted throughout the show. The Mime, played by Salah Benlemqawansa, was “Jacksonesque” in his performance. He presented a book of tales with green creature contortionist, Baaska Enkhbaatar, coming out of the pages.

As the songs kept unfolding, I was reminded of the numerous hours to achieve what Michael Jackson created. He truly was the King of Pop. Reflecting on his life, made me reflect on my own. And the clock… The clock kept ticking, but where was the through-line? Just as I was moved by an act, the show would change direction and splatter visuals and sound without cohesive intent.

There was whimsy with the large white glove puppet, which could have been performed with more crispness and the shoes in “Just Beat It.” The female electric guitarist, Desiree Bassett, played a
strong duet riff with the electric cellist on a moving conveyor belt.

The robot dancers with quasi-Nazi screens behind with a tree turned nuclear reactor was the most powerful piece with the song “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” It showed the human condition with Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King. It was created in Michael’s style.

Michael Jackson had messages, and if you didn’t get them the first time, this time you might.  On the screen projected, “In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope… Believe,” Michael Jackson.

The nostalgia and innocence of Michael as a child singing “I’ll Be There” was touching. Multi- country symbols of the flags in “Black and White” showed unity, albeit cliché. Bubbles, played by Terrance Harrison, grabbed the Mime’s hat at the end. It was a good choice and something a pet chimp would do. The talent took their bows on “The Man in the Mirror,” an odd choice, weakening one of Michael’s strongest messages. The loudest audience cheer came for Jean Sok, the One-Legged dancer, who wowed us with his acrobatic moves throughout the show.  It was over, it was good, but what was it trying to achieve?

“Immortal” continues its tour on March 27-28 / Minneapolis, MN / Target Center, March 30-April 1 / Newark, NJ / Prudential Center, April 3-5 / New York, NY / Madison Square Garden, April 7-8 / Uniondale, NY / Nassau Coliseum, April 10-11 / Philadelphia, PA / Wells Fargo Center, April 13-15 / Pittsburg, PA / Petersen Events Center, April 24 / State College, April 27-28 / Columbia, SC / Colonial Life Arena.


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