The Immortal Michael Jackson by Cirque du Soleil
Several Saturdays ago (yes loyal and impatient readers, I have returned) I had the privilege of attending The Immortal Michael Jackson by Cirque du Soleil American premiere at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. This show was comprised entirely of Michael Jackson’s music and filled with the imaginative costumes, exciting acrobatics and great dancing for which Cirque is known. And it was great!
This was my first Cirque show, so in retrospect I’m not sure how qualified I am to write this article, and yet if you look below you see several paragraphs, so I obviously write on anyway. I’ll hang my one claim to legitimacy on the lucky happenstance that I knew several of the performers. Anyhow, several of these cast members had warned me before-hand that there would be significantly fewer acrobatics than the “average” Cirque show, and that I should be more prepared for a lively concert. And, given the show’s slow start, I was at first concerned that even that warning had not prepared me enough, but I have never been so happily wrong. Following a slow “Have You Seen My Childhood?” the show picked up, moving from one spectacular dance number to the next. Although admittedly not an avid Michael Jackson fan–particularly not compared to many of the audience members, for I did not arrive sporting a sequined glove and bunched up socks with loafers, and I certainly could not ever hope to dance half as well as those who did–I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.
I think my only disappointment was the number for “Beat It.” Although the giant shoes and socks that moon-walked across the stage with performers inside of them were creative, followed Cirque’s reputation for excellent costumes, and paid appropriate homage to the King of Pop, I found the dancing and acrobatics for my favorite MJ song slightly sub-par. It did not help that it followed an excellent “Smooth Criminal/Bad” number, highlighted by 1920s gangster-wear (I’m a sucker for pinstripes, suspenders, and sleeve garters) and a sequin-bikini-clad and very talented acrobat performing on the Chinese Pole (I’m a sucker for flexible women as well).
And in addition to the energy and the excitement of show, I must admit that I also came away genuinely inspired, and inspired on several levels. Although a bit heavy-handed at times, the show’s numbers for “Man in the Mirror” and “Black and White” did carry great messages of hope, peace, and change for a better future. And just as inspiring was the final silhouette of Michael Jackson donning his fedora in that iconic pose, and the realization that one man could, whatever his faults, controversies, and idiosyncrasies, create a world-wide following inspired by music and dance.
Yet with several weeks to look back, it was the interactions I had outside of the show that I found to be the most inspiring. Two nights before the show I got the chance to talk, drink, and hang out with the above-mentioned cast members. Together in our party (and it was a party) there was an Englishman, two Swiss acrobatics, and two Americans, all of whom had lived and trained together for the past four months in Canada and who helped to build the show from the ground up.
At the risk of sounding heavy-handed myself, going out with this group of overwhelmingly kind, fun and worldly people was just as inspiring, and lent itself to just as much hope for better international communication and understanding, as “Black and White” ever could. It made me smile to imagine them spending the next three years traveling across North America, Europe, and Asia, entertaining and inspiring just as many people in all of these venues. Check out the video below about the casting of these passionate artists and their design team.
And it is the memory of seeing my friend perform on the swinging rings during the finale, my friend who introduced me to this fine international group, that truly caps off my memory of the show. For as long as I have known him this friend has wanted to “run off and join the circus” as he put it. He has seen just about every Cirque show ever created, has trained, has worked through auditions and disappointments, and has at last earned himself a contract. Seeing him on stage at a Cirque show was just as inspirational as that closing image of MJ himself, albeit a little less iconic and world-famous.
Best of luck to the whole cast for The Immortal Michael Jackson. And if they come to your city, readers, you should take a trip to Neverland!