BWW Reviews: MICHAEL JACKSON IMMORTAL TOUR Celebrates Jackson's Legacy with Visually Stunning Cirque Du Soleil Twist
In costume, creativity and sheer visual spectacle, "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil" goes beyond any other Cirque, rocking arenas with Jackson's best-known music, pumping the audience's adrenaline with dramatic lighting and blowing all expectations away with huge LED screens and two impressive finale numbers involving lit up costumes and pyrotechnics.
Yet the show does not line up with the typical Cirque. You can't go expecting all acrobatics and impressive, on-the-edge-of-your-seat acts. In many ways, the tour has more in common with "So You Think You Can Dance" than it has in common with circus acts. The majority of the performances showcase dancing and nothing else, while a few numbers are mostly music alone. One number has men in afros lip syncing to a Jackson 5 song.
In the end, you have to be a true Michael Jackson fan to fully appreciate "Immortal." Even with the amazing visuals, anyone unfamiliar with Jackson's trademark dance moves and popular songs will likely get less for their money than the die hard fans and those who just plain love dance. "Immortal" celebrates the life and legacy of pop icon Michael Jackson, from his childhood days to his adult years. Therefore, viewers who know more about Jackson's "Neverland" and other bits of Jackson history will have an advantage in figuring out what's going on, especially when it comes to understanding lyrics and recognizing the significance of certain background videos and photos.
But everyone will recognize and enjoy numbers like "Beat It" and "Thriller," recreated on stage to include Jackson's iconic moves, including his famous leaning motion. The leaning motion only happens once and goes by very quickly, and "Thriller" lacked some of the more well known dance moves. Still, the dancing does change in style from song to song and features a dancer with only one leg who uses his crutches to entertain audiences with his strength and skill. Come bows, he receives the most applause.
The tour keeps Jackson's voice for the solos and mixes up the background music, which a lively band plays along with live background vocals. Electric cello player Tina Guo has one of the most eye catching costumes of the show to match a few extremely memorable moments when she comes further out on stage to play solo.The remixed versions of Jackson classics stay true to the originals while creating a fresh, new way to enjoy his music.
The Cirque, acrobatic acts freshen the atmosphere, as well. Although few in number, the acts are striking and, sometimes, absolutely beautiful. During "Dangerous," a pole dancer does a routine suspended off the ground. Acrobats wearing multicolored LED costumes swoop, soar and float in the air, suspended above the stage in the dark in "Human Nature," representing the various constellations. A ghost story comes to life in "Scary Story - Is it Scary" when a contortionist comes out of a story book. The audience gets an interesting aerial view of the contortionist, Baaska Enkhbaatar, thanks to live video on the LED screens. Aerial strap artists, Luba Kazantseva and Igor Zaripov, emerge for a stunning second act opener done to Jackson's "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." Acrobats execute a perfectly synchronized tumbling act to "Scream," and they perform a Swiss rings act during the Mega Mix finale. Artists also use cables to fly into the air several times throughout the other numbers, but every time you expect them to do something while in the air, they come back down. On paper, it all seems like a lot of acrobatics, but in person, the dancing overpowers the Cirque acts. Not that the dancing isn't fantastic. With choreographers like MAndy Moore, Debra Brown, and Tabitha and Napoeon Dumo, it has to be amazing.
LED screens, roll-on sets, beautiful puppetry and fantastical costumes add to the phenomenal dancing. The tree-like branch sets that appear in photos and commercials of the tour were not present at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, and their absence leave you wondering what you're missing. But, curiosity aside, the nonstop, in your face performances and visuals make the missing sets easy to forget.
"Immortal" is unforgettable. The tour not only delivers in performance, but it gives you a look at the heart of Michael Jackson beyond the criticisms and law suits that made the news. A mime (Mansour Abdessadok) takes on the spirit of Jackson and carries much of the show, and several performers hold red glowing hearts during a moving scene done to Jackson's "Will You Be There" and "I'll be There." After everyone has bowed, the mime puts on a glove and hat and poses as Michael Jackson, a final tribute to Jackson's legacy and a fitting pose to remind audiences of a memorable night and a memorable music icon as fireworks go off.
San Jose HP Pavilion - January 13-15
Oakland Oracle Arena - January 17-18
San Diego Arena - January 21-22
Anaheim Honda Center - January 24-25
Los Angeles Staples Center - January 27-29
Picture credit : OSA Images
Costume credit : Zaldy Goco
©2011 Cirque-Jackson I.P., LLC