June 25, 2009 is a day that will live on in history. People gathered under the Eiffel Tower to break dance, one-gloved figures were seen wandering the streets of New York, and radio stations hosted 24-hour tributes. Michael Jackson’s legacy was much bigger than any one man could ever be. In some ways, he’s immortal. Cirque Du Soleil, with their long history of celebrating truly inspired work, has brought to life a new chapter in Jackson’s history with their latest show.
Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour arrives in DC July 13 to July 15 as part of a worldwide tour. It’s part Cirque show, part rock concert. And with a staff of devoted choreographers, dancers and musicians that performed with the King of Pop himself, you can be sure that MJ is well represented.
Those who have seen a Cirque Du Soleil show know to expect fantastical costumes, jaw-dropping acrobatics, dazzling lighting effects, and live music. But the familiar figure, the music that makes you want to sing along, and the hyped-up choreography all help this show to stand out from typical Cirque fare. Ten choreographers contributed to the show; many had even worked with Michael. Fans of So You Think You Can Dance will recognize credits for Nappy Tabs and Mandy Moore. Hey, it is Michael Jackson after all; the choreography has to represent that.
“My favorite act is Smooth Criminal”, said Tara Young, the Artistic Director for Immortal. “I like it because it has the iconic choreography we all know so well.” Apparently, it’s not uncommon for people in the audience to join in with the moves.
“In Act II, there is a young Michael singing ‘I’ll Be There’. It’s beautiful and simplistic. It’s touching.”
The storyline spans Jackson’s entire life, weaving the plot together through more than 30 of his songs. You’ll hear pieces from his Jackson 5 years all the way through to his final concert. It’s anything but biographical though. He lived his life in a realm that few understood, or would be able to imagine on their own. Cirque Du Soleil has a fun time bringing that creativity to the stage.
It took more than 9,000 hours to create all the props and puppets used in the show. What sort of puppets? Let’s just say his famous penny loafers and glitter glove might make a giant appearance.
Writer and Director Jackie King recognized the importance of building a team who had real-world experience with Jackson. King is the leading concert director in pop music today. He’s worked with just about everyone you can imagine, from Madonna to Britney Spears. He was devoted to staying true to Michael’s artistic vision: the love of music and dance, fairy tales and magic, and the fragile beauty of nature.
In order to get the music just right, Musical Director Greg Phillinganes drew on his more than 25 years of experience working with Michael to figure out the perfect arrangements. This includes never-before released clips, new arrangements, mash-ups and remixes. Also on staff is John “Sugarfoot” Moffett, who played drums for Michael for 30 years. “We are all doing this because of the love we have [for] Michael. His spirit will live in this show,” said Phillinganes.
Another MJ tour alum, Costume Designer Zaldy Goco, explained they are pushing the limits with 3D printing and LED techniques, “just as Michael would”. She was responsible for more than 250 costumes, transported from city to city by three 52-foot trucks.
How do they handle all the travel? As Artistic Director, Tara Young is responsible for taking care of the performers, “We try to live in the moment. We’ve been to 60+ cities. I try to not think about how many more there are to come.”
In the end, people will be inspired by how much material Michael shared with so many people throughout this life. “I have to say, I really believe that if MJ saw this show, he would be really proud,” says Young. “His family is proud of it, his children are proud. We feel very honored to be trusted with his material. “
Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour will be presented July 13-15 at the Verizon Center: 601 F St. NW, DC; 202-628-3200; www.verizoncenter.com. Tickets range from $50-$200 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com. For more information on the show, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/michaeljackson.