Moon-Walking, Crotch-Grabbing Fun: Cirque du Soleil’s The Immortal Celebrates The King of Pop

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Soaring acrobats, glittering costumes, eye-popping visuals, freakishly flexible women… it’s all come to be the standard associated with any Cirque du Soleil spectacle. As such, when any new Cirque production debuts, expectations tend to run incredibly high – and in the case of their latest touring endeavor, Michael Jackson The Immortal, anticipation was beyond feverish.

Fortunately, as evidenced by last night’s standing ovation from a sold-out crowd at Rogers Arena, the show delivers the goods. It’s a fitting tribute to the King of Pop, whose decades-long career is showcased in dazzling, toe-tapping numbers. Nearly every one of Jackson’s hit songs is featured here, set to everything from jumbo-screen video clippings to pyrotechnic displays.

Highlights include a slick dance routine for Smooth Criminal, a hypnotic pole display from a sizzling, flame-haired acrobat for Dangerous and a gleeful homage to the Jackson Five from clown-like “fanatics” decked in white gloves and sequined jackets. To the audience’s delight, Cirque’s take on Thriller included the original choreography of the iconic 1983 music video – performed by dancers in elaborate mummy attire leaping out of coffins and prancing between tombstones. And then there was the powerful presentation of They Don’t Really Care About Us, a hauntingly affective performance by “robots” (dancers donning Iron Man-esque suits with lit LED breastplates) set to scenes of extreme poverty and violence playing in the background.

Regardless of what one might think of Michael Jackson and the peculiar behavior he exhibited throughout his personal life, there’s no denying the man was a musical genius who greatly influenced pop culture as we know it. Regrettably, Cirque du Soleil opts at certain points to shine the spotlight on Jackson’s lifestyle- rather than his music – making for awkward and somewhat distasteful moments. There’s a scene that attempts to examine his obsession with eternal childhood and his unusual affinity with children, eerily featuring a doll of a young Michael Jackson woefully soaring about in a mini hot air balloon. And then there’s an act that touches upon his love of animals, complete with performer in chimpanzee costume hopping about as Jackson’s longtime pet, Bubbles. Happily, these strange instances are brief distractions in a show that wisely elects, for the most part, to focus itself upon Jackson’s immense talent.

While it’s impossible to know what Michael Jackson himself would have thought of Cirque du Soleil’s The Immortal, one can only assume he’d have been honoured by the multi-million dollar, multi-media extravaganza in his name – all in all, it does his moon walk proud.

Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour runs at Rogers Arena tonight and Sunday. Tickets at ticketmaster.ca.

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Kristen McKenzie 

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