Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Immortal’ brings the King of Pop back to Washington.
By John Arundel
Anyone who remembers the late “Gloved One” Michael Jackson in Washington back in the day, his almost regal visit to Ronald Reagan’s White House, his electrifying performances at the old Capital Centre, the tracks from “Thriller” that filled the D.C. airwaves like musical wallpaper; here’s a news flash: the timeless music and indomitable spirit of the King of Pop returns this weekend for one final star turn.
The brainchild of those creative geniuses at Montreal-based Cirque Du Soleil, “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” is the official theatrical production that incorporates the music and vision of Michael Jackson along with Cirque’s dazzling acrobatic performance style to create what they’re billing as a truly realistic concert experience.
So far, Michael Jackson purists and forever fans are not bucking it: Just two months after it was launched last October in Montreal, the show had sold out over $100 million tickets and became the top touring act in America, according to Forbes. Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles were among the first celebrities to see the show in Las Vegas, followed by Brad Pitt, who celebrated his 48th birthday in Las Vegas with his life partner Angelina Jolie and their children.
The show was produced in partnership with the Estate of Michael Jackson. “Michael Jackson was always a fan of Cirque du Soleil,” said tour publicist Laura Silverman, speaking to Washington Life from Las Vegas, where it was just wrapping up a show. “He went backstage in Santa Monica in 1980 and visited us in Montreal in 2004. Cirque du Soleil and Michael Jackson are both entertainment entities that like to do things over the top. The idea of us working together was always just an idea, which, sadly, only came together after his passing. This is our tribute to him.”
The estate initially opened 50 venues and asked fans to request that the show come to their respective cities. The high ticket demand prompted the estate to add several venues and several show dates which resulted in a total of 250 shows in North America and Europe.
The arena show — which is similar to a rock concert — began its tour last October in Montreal. After touring North America for about two years, it makes its final North American stop in D.C. this weekend at the Verizon Center before continuing on to Mexico, South America and then Europe.
“We have been to 62 cities so far and have been very well received in every city,” Silverman said.
Silverman also noted that in early 2013, as the show leaves North America, a resident show — which will be more theatrical in nature — will open at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Cirque will also be opening up a Michael Jackson-inspired lounge at that resort.
Standing in the center of the show’s creative force-field is Emmy Award-winning writer and director Jamie King, whom Variety called the “Jerry Bruckheimer of tent-pole concert tours.”
“It’s a riveting fusion of visuals, dance, music and fantasy that immerses audiences in Michael’s creative world and literally turns his signature moves upside down,“ King has been quoted as saying. “The tour unfolds Michael Jackson’s artistry before the eyes of the audience. We think that it captures the essence, soul and inspiration of the King of Pop, celebrating a legacy that continues to transcend generations.”
King has choreographed some of the most popular music videos and directed some of the highest?grossing concert tours of all time. For 12 years he served as Madonna’s creative director, and most recently directed world tours for Rihanna, Celine Dion, Spice Girls, Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne.
“The show takes place in a fantastical realm where we discover Michael’s inspiration and the wellspring of his creativity,” King has said. “The secrets of Michael’s inner world are unlocked — his love of music and dance, fairy tale and magic, and the fragile beauty of nature.”
This is King’s first show with Cirque du Soleil. He has said that he wanted to include Jackson’s “giving tree” as the focus of the tour.
“Jamie and his team have worked hard to make this show the best experience possible for Michael Jackson’s fans,” Silverman said. “None of us can forget how Jackson went backstage in Santa Monica in 1980 and was so excited to meet the performers and just got lost in the wardrobe, taking the time to see how they work and how they created. Jamie wanted to make this the most appropriate tribute as possible.”
While Michael Jackson’s music is the driving force of the show, Silverman said that attendees can expect to see all of the high-energy acrobatic feats that Cirque is known for. “It really feels like you’re at a Michael Jackson concert,” she said.
Making that happen also involved a creation team that includes 10 choreographers who had previously worked with Jackson, and features more than 60 international dancers, musicians and acrobats.
“In order to create a show to celebrate Michael Jackson you have to go all out and do it right,” Silverman said. “We don’t have an impersonator in the show. You can’t imitate a legend.”
Tickets for the three performances at the Verizon Center July 13-15 are $50 to $250 each, and are available at www.ticketmaster.com.