Cirque du Soleil Evokes Emotion in MICHAEL JACKSON ONE Las Vegas Show

Cirque du Soleil’s newest resident show, Michael Jackson ONE, has its world premiere at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 29, 2013.  This is Cirque’s eighth resident show in Vegas, and the second project developed in partnership with the Michael Jackson Estate (Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour was first).  Michael Jackson ONE, helmed by noted pop music concert director Jamie King, began preview performances May 23, 2013.  During the recent U.S. Travel Association IPW conference, we were treated to a sneak peek performance of Michael Jackson ONE, and it is an evocative show Michael Jackson fans will not want to miss.  Continue reading for more thoughts and details on the total immersion experience that is Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE.

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek. Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Entering Mandalay Bay’s Michael Jackson theater immediately transports one into Michael Jackson’s world.  Costumes of the ushers and attendants mimic the pseudo-military jackets, fedoras, and accessories worn by the King of Pop.  Pepsi products are exclusively sold inside the theater, and a giant pocket watch labeled Neverland ticks down the minutes to curtain.

Like many Cirque du Soleil productions the performance starts upon entering their space with guests hounded by in-your-face paparazzi wanting to capture your image.  Invasive and intrusive media is an integral part of the show, and audience members get a small taste of what its like to be put under the tabloid microscope – case in point are headlines and images projected on the side walls of the theater prior to commencement of the sensory frenzy.

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek. Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

 

Michael Jackson ONE is an auditory and visual fusion of sound, music, dance, acrobatics, photos and video, engulfing the audience in a multimedia journey through the music and spirit of Michael Jackson.  The show is driven by Michael Jackson’s powerful, multi-layered music – heard (and felt) through a riveting surround-sound environment.  The encapsulating environment created not only by music and sound, but also the omniscient screens, cameras, and media constantly stalking the show’s protagonist.

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek. Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

 

Michael Jackson ONE has a cast of 63 dancers and performers plus ONE Michael Jackson.  The King of Pop is ever-present and looms over the show through his music, dance, and on-screen video footage.  Not necessarily a negative, as the show becomes more than just a tribute, but almost a reincarnation of a Michael Jackson concert.

Writer and director Jamie King knows the modern pop music concert experience.  He started his career as a dancer on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour, and Variety called him the “Billion Dollar Show Director” in a piece highlighting the nineteen concert tours he has choreographed and directed including: Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show (plus four other Madonna world tours) and multiple world tours for Rihanna, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, and Christina Aguilera to name a few.  Jamie King also directed the current Cirque du Soleil arena touring show Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour.

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek

Jamie King, Story Creator and Director (left center), Welby Altidor, Director of Creation (right center), and the cast of Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson ONE." Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

 

If there’s a criticism to Michael Jackson ONE, it’s that the experience resembles a pop concert more than a Cirque du Soleil show (understandable given Jamie King’s background as a director).  As a fan of Cirque du Soleil, Michael Jackson ONE was somewhat lacking on the unique cirque elements.  Yes there was an aerial performance along with acrobatics and extreme sports athletes performing to hip hop choreography.  The trampoline stunts set to Thriller were spectacular, but I wanted more acrobatics and less dancing.  [Caveat: I only saw a sneak peek portion of the show, and may not have seen all of the acrobatic elements for Michael Jackson ONE.]

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek

Cirque du Soleil "Michael Jackson ONE" Sneak Peek. Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

 

Michael Jackson ONE is meant to be a tribute to the visionary work of Michael Jackson, and relies heavily on the creative spirit of the King of Pop complemented and augmented by Cirque du Soleil.  I can only imagine it was an intentional artistic decision to have Michael Jackson front and center in the performance, and not let the Cirque du Soleil elements detract from MJ’s legacy.  His visage and image are constant, and all eras of his career from the Jackson 5 to his untimely passing are represented with numbers from Thriller, Bad, and many more of his recognizable hits.  Cirque du Soleil’s production could have lapsed into nostalgia, but instead felt current and relevant mostly because Michael Jackson’s work still felt contemporary.  At that’s where the show hits you and evokes emotion – during the realization that Michael Jackson was a troubled genius tortured by inner personal demons as well as his own success.  I looked over at my wife who accompanied me to the preview, and she was on the verge of tears moved by the music and spectacle.

Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson ONE

In closing, Cirque du Soleil provided this explanation regarding their new show’s name – Michael Jackson believed that all people are unique and equal, regardless of race or culture.  His message was one of unity, harmony and hope for a better world.  Michael Jackson was a multifaceted artist who strove to fuse together various musical styles and art forms.  It is a fitting title for a unifying journey into the world of Michael Jackson, the One.

DISCLOSURE: The special preview performance of Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE was by special invitation only and complimentary.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.  For more family travel and entertainment news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.