As is the case with any significant artist or musician, the spirit often lives on long after the person is no longer with us through the music and images he leaves behind. And when you’re talking about someone as eclectic as Michael Jackson, you should expect nothing less for his remembrance than the elaborate costumes and unique circus performers of Cirque du Soleil. Having started in Cirque’s home town of Montreal last October, Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour features MJ favorites like “Beat It,” “Ben” and “Man in the Mirror” while Cirque dancers, aerialists and acrobats add to the costumed spectacle seen in his iconic videos. Having performed in more than 60 North American cities since October, the tour continues through August before heading to Europe for the rest of the year. With a three-night stand in Atlanta starting tonight, tour spokesperson Laura Silverman talks to Wrestling with Pop Culture about The Immortal Tour‘s spectacle.
This isn’t Cirque du Soleil’s first show based on a particular pop musician. For those of us who have yet to see MJ, how does it compare to other Cirque du Soleil performances?
This show is much different from any other Cirque du Soleil show, including the Beatles and Elvis shows. It’s very much Cirque du Soleil meets rock/pop concert whereas the other shows are much more theatrical. This one really feels like you’re at a Michael Jackson concert. It’s taking Cirque du Soleil elements that people know the company for – contortionists, aerials, acrobatics and all of that – and pairing it with Michael Jackson’s music, his iconic dance moves and the flashy costumes that both Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil are known for. So it really has a high-energy concert feel to it as opposed to it being a theatrical show.
Was Michael Jackson creatively involved with the show before he passed away?
Unfortunately this specific project didn’t come about until after his passing, but he was a fan of Cirque du Soleil. He saw one of the very first big top shows in Santa Monica in the 1980s and he visited our international headquarters in Montreal in 2004. So there had always been a mutual respect between Cirque du Soleil and Michael Jackson. Cirque du Soleil is always trying to outdo itself coming up with new ideas for its shows and costumes and technology, and Michael Jackson was the same way. He was always thinking ahead of the curve, always coming up with ideas for things you couldn’t even do yet. In that respect, I think that partnership was natural.
Since the focus of this show is on the music and you said it is more like a rock concert than a typical Cirque du Soleil show, are most of the performers dancers or does it have the different types of performers we might see at any other Cirque du Soleil show?
We have a great mix. There are 61 total artists in our show, so that breaks down to about 12 musicians, 26 acrobats and 23 dancers. We have our duo aerial artists, a man and woman swinging and flying together in the air; we have a contortion act; and there’s a pole dancer act and she’s a two-time world champion in pole dancing, so she’s just phenomenal. There’s a Japanese acrobatic team that does a really amazing number to “Sream.” And there’s aerial stuff interjected into the dance numbers, too. So for “Thriller,” for example, you’re going to see our dancers doing the signature “Thriller” moves that most people will recognize, but you’re also going to see our acrobats flying through the air.
Speaking of “Thriller,” is the show a collection of interpretations of his songs and videos or is it more trying to capture the overall spirit of Michael Jackson, or maybe a little bit of both?
It’s definitely a little bit of both. The idea of the show is to pay tribute and celebrate everything that Michael Jackson left to us, from his music, his voice, his dance moves, his costumes, his messages and the overall idea of his spirit. So in the numbers where there are iconic Michael Jackson moves or costumes, we’ve paired those with Cirque du Soleil. So with “Thriller,” there are not only werewolves and zombies, but our artists add mummy costumes to the “Thriller” dance and we also add acrobatics to that. And with “Smooth Criminal,” for example, you’re going to see that iconic lean move, but we have pyrotechnics involved in the number. It was easy to coordinate this because there were a ton of choreographers that worked on the show, many of whom had actually worked with Michael Jackson for many years. So they were able to take moves that Michael Jackson was known for and sort of elaborate on that.
Has this show changed or evolved very much since it started last fall?
With any Cirque show we’re always working to make things better and evolve it as necessary. Nothing has changed in the show, but we always consider our projects sort of a work in progress and tweak things to make it the best it can be.
Once this tour wraps up in Europe next year, are there plans to do another Michael Jackson show that might incorporate some of his other songs?
There’s nothing like that planned for this show, but there is a completely different show planned to open in Vegas next year. But I’m not sure if that one will include different songs. It will be at Mandalay Bay sometime next year.
For more information, go to www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/show/michael-jackson-tour.