Immortalizing the King of Pop
Cirque du Soleil’s tribute to the late Michael Jackson comes to St. Petersburg this week.
Published: November 7, 2012 (Issue # 1734)
‘Michael Jackson The Immortal’ celebrates the King of Pop’s iconic dance moves, as well as his music.
Cirque du Soleil celebrates the talent of the late king of pop, Michael Jackson, in its new production “Michael Jackson The Immortal” that will see its Russian premiere on November 9, 10 and 11 at the St. Petersburg’s Ice Palace.
“Michael Jackson The Immortal” is a rather unusual offering from the world-renowned Canadian company that has for the first time produced a rock-tour-style performance juxtaposing music, dance and acrobatics. However, the Jackson and Cirque alliance could not be more natural: The late pop idol was an eccentric who made circus an integral element of his stage existence, and who actually frequented the company’s performances in the U.S.
The production had its world premiere in Montreal on Oct. 2, 2011, before successfully touring 67 North American cities. The performances were generally sold out and were attended by a total of 1.4 million spectators. This year, the production moved on to Europe, where it premiered at London’s O2 arena in October.
“Acrobats wearing LED lights glimmered like stars,” reads a review of the show’s European premiere in London’s The Independent newspaper. “A chaos of strobe lights swung around the arena to assail the audience. Dancers became silhouettes of changing colours and acrobats dangled in darkness with lights studded across their coiled bodies. A ghostly hologram of Jackson, his arms in crucifix, was a marvel of lighting technology.”
Kevin Antunes, who is responsible for the production’s sound, promises that the show will enable the world to hear Jackson’s voice in a way it has never been heard before.
“In the show, Michael will give a new vibrance to the rhythm of the songs: The words will be muffled down by the arrangements of the tunes,” said Antunes. The sound designer has incorporated a unique recording of the five-year-old Michael Jackson that has never been broadcast before into the song “ABC” from the repertoire of the Jackson 5 band.
“I went to Michael Jackson’s concert in Moscow in 1993, and I have seen Michael Jackson The Immortal,” said Craig Cohon, vice-chairman of Cirque du Soleil Russia, who attended the European premiere in London.
“I can testify that at our show, one can feel the presence of the artist. This production is a feast not only for those who worship Michael Jackson and admire him but a delight for any music fan.”
The Cirque du Soleil show includes an inevitable homage to ‘Thriller.’
Responsible for the choreographic element of the show is a team of 10 internationally renowned coaches, three of whom were once members of Jackson’s own team. The trio of “the initiated” includes the choreographer Travis Pane, who was involved in preparations for the King of Pop’s planned series of concerts scheduled for London in July 2009 — before the singer’s untimely death on June 25 that year — and the Talauega brothers, Richmond and Anthony, who were in their teens when they were originally discovered by Jackson’s team, and then went on to work for the superstar on various projects for almost 10 years.
“Michael Jackson’s first Cirque du Soleil tribute is bigger than big, an over-the-top touring rock concert built for stadiums packed with thousands of frenzied fans,” reads a review of the show in the U.S. publication Vegas Magazine.
“The props are enormous, the cast and crew in the hundreds; but stripped down, Cirque du Soleil’s The Immortal tour is a labor of love from those who knew him best, from choreographers Rich and Tone Talauega, brothers who worked with Michael for 10 years, to musical director Greg Phillinganes, who started working with the Jacksons back in 1978. These were the creative souls who made Michael tick. Many of them, including choreographer Travis Payne, costume designer Zaldy Goco, and props and scenic designer Michael Curry, were working with the music legend on his final tour, This Is It, until he died before his time on June 25, 2009.”
Founded in 1984 in Montreal, Cirque du Soleil has evolved into an international giant, with seven permanent shows in Las Vegas, plus its own venues in Orlando, Florida; Macau, China; and Tokyo. Each venue has its own repertoire created specifically for that performance space and audience. Cirque du Soleil employs more than 5,000 people worldwide, including 1,300 artists, of whom about 20 percent are performers from the former Soviet bloc.
In 2012, it is expected that around 15 million people will have attended the company’s performances by the end of the year.
“Michael Jackson The Immortal” will be performed at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 10 and at 5 p.m. on Nov. 11 at the Ice Palace, 1a Prospekt Pyatiletok. M. Prospekt Bolshevikov. Tel. 718 6620.