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Here It Comes: Michael Jackson ONE Starts Moonwalking

May 8, 2013 at 8:03 PM | by | ()

You won't be bored. Cirque du Soleil previewed four Michael Jackson ONE production numbers to the press, opening the doors of their Mandalay Bay theater for the first time since December 2011. Four songs and lots and lots of stuff going on. And, lots to review.

We personally forgot what we had already told you: Michael Jackson ONE plots "four misfits" on a "transformative adventure." Took us a minute to work out the roles of the three geeky dudes and a teenage girl on the stage. But, then it all made sense. Last month, we were first to show you artist renderings of the production. And, they looked exactly the same as the scenes unveiled before our very eyes. But, with more lights and lasers. Lots more. This might be brightest show we've ever seen.

The show's premise is rooted in the "spirit and energy" of Jackson and, pondering the notion, if you possessed the spirit of his hat, his glove or his shoes what could you do? Could you fly? (We thought sell them on eBay, but...)

The preview began with paparazzi characters running through the audience and harassing spectators with lights, cameras and microphones. If you've never warmed to Cirque clowns approaching you, these camera guys make perfect sense. We then watched four numbers choreographed to Jackson's songs. These numbers are played all the way thorough. No 60 second K-Tel greatest hits commercial edits.

"Tabloid Junkie" faces head-on the Jackson newsprint rumor factory. Headlines projected on the walls write of his attempt to buy the "Elephant Man's bones" and Joseph Merrick's skeleton stands there on the stage. Michael's supposed oxygen chamber is also wheeled across the stage. "Stranger in Moscow" spotlights a flown-in crescent moon lady and an aerialist. Behind him drifts snow and ghostly images of Liz Taylor, Michael and Diana Ross. "Bad" is a more literal re-imaging of the music video, with a kind of street gang, a New York subway backdrop and graffiti and B-Boy stances. And, you'll also learn the correct spelling of Cha'mone. "Smooth Criminal" includes a group synchronized leaning you'll be puzzling over for days.

Based on our view from the rear, middle of the theatre, if you are thinking of buying a ticket we recommend the section closest to the very middle. Sounds obvious, but it might it might help you focus your attention. Performers fly over the aisles on either side of the room and walk along platforms on the side walls to leave the stage. But, the closer you are to the center, we believe, the more immersive the spectacle will become.

Apparently, there are speakers in the seats to help the sound surround you. We stood up for the whole preview and so missed that. Without that benefit, we actually thought the sound too quiet. Go figure.

There is so much happening on stage and the scenes are so busy, we hope that some of the lighting cue revisions taking place right now, will help focus the eye on the action. It's often hard to know where to look. A luxury problem, admittedly. Case in point: when Michael's disembodied shoes float to ground and start moonwalking on their own. It appeared to us half the audience missed them arrive.. until the cast pantomimed their own surprise. It could use a better follow spot.

We've heard, off the record, that the production team is very happy with the show. Watching Weltby Altidor, "Director of Creation," prior to the preview, he showed no hint of nerves. Fight fans know that can be a good sign. But, Weltby and show writer and director Jaimie King kept repeating opening night is June 21. A warning we interpreted to mean that previews beginning May 23, are just that; previews. Tweaks to come. Or, ONE has "some way to go," as Weltby explained.

We're holding back our personal opinions. The team admitted the scenes were 60% ready. We will reveal the audience was slightly muted in their reactions during and post the event, despite what you might read elsewhere. A surprise as February's first big press event was a huge success.

In our gallery, you'll see some of the changes to the theater, extended lobby area and the sparkly floor. Still under construction is the gift shop. Right now, the two Michael statues we photographed last year are standing inside. But, there's still less Michael imagery in the area than we would have predicted.

With the controversy that will forever float around Jackson and the less than ideal critical reception of Zarkana, all eyes are on Michael Jackson ONE and its place in the Cirque dynasty. We just might be blinded by the light shining back.

Archived Comments:

Very Good Info

I appreciate stories like this, particularly because I know Richard isn't afraid to tell the truth.  (His "Rock of Ages" review was harsh.  But, after going myself, I was in agreement.) I'm a bigger Cirque fan than a MJ fan.  I am intrigued by this show.

Unfortunately, I doubt I'll see it, despite planning on being in Vegas for 6 days in July.  My reasons for staying away is purely economic.  Unless you want to sit in the back two rows or sides at the rear of the theatre, the seats are too expensive.  ($99 for those "bad" seats.  $130-180 for decent to perfect seats.)

Bad seats?

thackftl: Thank you for taking to the time to comment. If you take a look at the first photo in the gallery, it was taken on the last row, at the very rear of the theatre. No zoom. That might give you an idea of the view. And the lighting is so extravagant, you'll still be blinded back there. In a good way.

Like you, every journalist covering this story remains intrigued. Whole range of opinions post-preview.

Personally, the unseen "Man in the Mirror" sequence is a real reason to be excited about this live spectacle. Hopefully the duo behind it have conjured something unique.

I Need to See a Face

I probably shouldn't have used "bad" to describe seats.  I know there really are no bad seats in theatres built (or renovated) for a Cirque show.  I've seen all the Las Vegas Cirque shows except Criss Angel and Zarkana.

I just happen to have specific tastes when it come to theatre.  Unless I can actually see the performers face, I don't feel like I'm getting the whole experience.  Of course, with Cirque du Soleil, being close has some disadvantages.  But, for me, I'll take seeing performers up close even if I lose some of the scope of the spectacle.

My best Cirque experiences have always been where I felt as if the show were all around me.  The last three times I saw Zumanity, I was accosted during the pre-show or pointed out by Edie.  And, on my last trip to Mystere, a clown wrapped half a roll of masking tape around my head.  While that would be a nightmare for some, I loved the attention and interaction.