The full name of Cirque du Soleil’s new show is Michael Jackson Immortal; Google took me and somewhere between ten and twenty thousand other employees off to see it last week in Oakland. You weren’t supposed to have “real” cameras, but here’s one my point-and-shoot managed.
If you want a better visual, the video highlights on the site linked above capture the flavor pretty well.
Now, I was never that big an MJ fan — just a little too controlled and mawkish for me — and in recent years, I’d kind of soured on the Cirque. I remember seeing them 20 years ago, when they were a new thing and there weren’t a dozen different troupes. The effects were maybe not as dazzling as today, but the intensity was near-unbelievable, at another level entirely.
The last couple of times I saw a show, the acts blended together; and frankly, I’d seen enough Chinese contortionists bending way way back to last a couple of lifetimes.
But I really liked the show. I think it was extremely useful for the Cirque to be given a theme: Build a show around these songs, this hat, that glove, those dance moves. I read that MJ loved the Cirque, and that’s easy to believe. The sentimentality worked just fine, translated to a stage-full of exuberantly-costumed performers carrying big softly-glowing soft-red hearts.
You have to have a lot of nerve to present a new dance routine for Billie Jean, but it came off, with a dozen wildly athletic dancers wearing illuminated suits — the lights danced too. They even made the contortionists interesting. One of the dance troupes, which turned to be aided by a specially-cushioned stage, pulled off a couple of moves that looked lethally dangerous and just about shocked me out of my seat.
As for the music, it was first-rate, if a little low-fi; it bothers me when I can’t tell which parts are live and which are recorded, but I guess that makes me weird. The young woman with the hot costume and electric cello brought the house down; and the dual-guitar orchestrations were great fun.
The show lasted well over two hours and was maybe a half-hour too long; a couple of the acrobat routines and video projections dragged a bit. But if you start strong and end strong, the audience will walk away smiling, and we did.
Thanks to MJ for the songs and dance moves, Le Cirque for the show, and Google for showing us a good time.