by Jeff Niesel
Cirque du Soleil currently has two Las Vegas shows that center on music. One is Beatles Love, an abstract interpretation of the British band’s music. The other is Viva Elvis, a show with a more linear approach that attempts to tell the rock singer’s story. Beatles Love has been a huge success. Viva Elvis has not. Cirque’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, which arrived at Quicken Loans Arena last night for the first of a two-night stand, lies somewhere between the two. Its attempt to depict the story of Jackson’s life through a series of old clips and montages doesn’t entirely work. But when the production simply attempts to provide a visceral celebration of Jackson’s music, it succeeds.
The show got off to a rather slow start as a group of Jackson look-a-likes arrived on stage and performed a series of street-style dance moves in front of a giant screen depicting an urban setting. Then, giant gates with the words Neverland on them opened wide to let dancers and acrobats run in and out and the show became a show. The live band that contains members that once toured with Jackson ran through “Smooth Criminal” and “Dangerous” while dancers went through choreographed dance scenes every bit as involved as something you might have seen at a Jackson concert. The first half ended as mummies arrived on stage as the band played “Thriller.”
After a 20-minute intermission, the second half started strong as two trapeze artists performed high in the air to the sound of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” The entire second half was more abstract than the more literal first half and this worked to the production’s advantage. The finale — a medley of “Can You Feel It/Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough/Billie Jean/Black or White” — was simply stunning as it brought the entire cast of dancers (including one talented guy who had only one leg) and acrobats onto stage and got the capacity crowd to its feet. Had Jackson been alive to witness this production, he most likely would have approved.