Recently, we chastised the Jabbawockeez for promoting a show of pure imagination and not delivering. At Mandalay Bay, you'll witness pure, startlingly clever imagination on display. Moments that will make you smile. People walk up walls. The undead boogie in the aisle. You want to see Michael perform one more time? They make that happen.
Cirque needed this show. Zarkana at Aria was a huge disappointment. And, not just for us. We've heard it often. We even thought we detected some nostalgia for the pushed aside Viva Elvis in MJ1. A couple of acrobatic routines look like they were filched from the Presley production. Trampolines are certainly popular on this end of the Strip.
The upgraded, former Lion King theater houses a stage show with pop-out 3D moments. Even though the wings of the stage are in use, it's not an elaborate-themed theater like KA at MGM Grand. The acrobatics aren't as crazy as Mystere. But, if feels right. And, the production does come out to you. There are many instances of flying characters. Pick a seat on the aisles and you might receive a private performance inches away from you. Or, above you. And, not those usual Cirque clown types, either. The show begins not with miming pranksters, but sci-fi-stylized paparazzi stalking ticket holders. It's a nice gimmick. Particularly when they prey on latecomers. Then the principal characters climb out of the audience to get to the stage.
Scripting is always a slippery and elusive challenge for a Cirque show. In this instance, the premise is so slight it never has to intrude in the way of a really good dance number. Four misfits, obsessive fans of Michael, chase four iconic, totemic relics from his career. His hat, glove, glasses and shoes. When they find each one, like a gift from the Hellenic gods, they are transformed into uber misfits. The dancer can out moonwalk Michael when fused with his shoes. The hat-wearer can juggle it with more panache than MJ.
Only the glove wearer lets the side down. His comedic interlude is the most clownly Cirque-like interval. And, maybe the show's weakest segment. But, the journey of these meddling kids will turn them into cartoons, monster evaders and empowered torch-bearers of the Jackson myth. That's kind of all the plot you need. Four youngsters battle the metaphoric demons that surrounded Michael and come out the other end dancing and claiming we "all are one."
We had previewed four numbers from the show back in May and, frankly, we -- and a few other journalists -- were worried. It seemed too frenetic, confusing and anxious. We were way wrong about that. Those same sequences have been tweaked, focused and fit seamlessly into the show. The production team clearly never stopped working.
There's an amazing young dancer who is emblematic of the inspiration tapped to create this show. He's taken all of MJ's moves and twists his triple-jointed pretzel form to help push Jackson's legacy into the 21st century. And, that's the extraordinary thing about this show. The man who inspired this undertaking.
If all the rumors about Michael Jackson are true, he maybe the vilest, most evilly deceptive monster ever to grace a stage, deceptively promoting pure and innocent trust. If only 20% of those rumors are true, he's exactly that same monster. And, so on. If those rumors are true, everyone connected with this show, including myself for recommending you go see it, is complicit in continuing the sordid legacy of an individual who potentially should be shunned forever.
But, the bizarre fallout from the bizarre life of Michael Jackson is, in death, he is inspiring astounding creativity and joy almost as a spiritual antidote to the potential crimes of his life. Now, if you believe Michael was an innocent victim of the tabloids (a central component of the show's plot) or a victim of relentless vicious innuendo, this show will only further your belief of his ascension into martyrdom. Believe us, there are lot of conflicted thoughts concerning this venture. It would be far easier for us if this wasn't such an exhilarating theatrical experience.
We witnessed the early show on premiere night. Surrounded by celebrities. In seats so good we thought they had made a mistake. They were better than Justin Bieber's who sat in the row in front of us, expressionless and leaving behind a wake of trash. (See above.) Not very eco-friendly. Anyway, the central middle section of the room will give you an amazing perspective. It helps to catch sight of those flying performers before they hit the stage. Or, run along the side. Or, hang above. Being too close to the stage might be a disadvantage in this instance. And, the aisle seats might prove much more fun for you. Depends if you want to boogie to Thriller.
The technology at work on stage is so current, it will be at least a year before you'll see anything comparable in Las Vegas. So, no rush. It's not a limited run. Ticket prices range from $69 to $160. You'll pay that much to see Jersey Boys, but you wouldn't leave their theater with at least five moments you'll be bursting to describe to family and friends. Here's the official trailer that is being shown on local TV. These clips don't even reveal our favorite moments. Uncharacteristically, we've tried to hold some descriptions back. But, we enjoyed the surprises so we hope you will, too.
Is it perfect? No. A pair of mean-street scenes culminating in a pole dance felt like Zarkana and Viva Elvis Elvis outtakes. A couple of the projections felt like last-minute scene change fillers. And, the misfit with the glove was maybe one misfit too many. The ending is a little unfocused, too. It could almost use a definitive full stop. The much ballyhooed audio wasn't as stunning as The Beatles LOVE mixes and often resorts to whooshes and zap-zippery reminiscent of those old THX sound promos you heard at the movies.
For a stage spectacle of elegance, acrobatic wonder and sheer size, you can't beat O or KA. But, right now, the show you'll be talking about and thinking about long after you leave, is Michael Jackson ONE. If you have spared a thought about buying tickets, save your pennies and make a night of it. It's unmissable.