A Cirque du Soleil masterpiece fit for a musical king

Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil Photo Provided by Cirque du Soleil
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Given the astronomical success of Cirque du Soleil’s “Love” based on the songbook of The Beatles, followed by the Elvis Presley-themed “Viva Elvis,” it’s only fitting to find the versatile performance art troupe collaborating with Michael Jackson’s estate to stage what could quite possibly be either entity’s biggest spectacle to date. While the world is still reeling at the passing of the “King of Pop,” who was certainly “Gone Too Soon,” “Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour” is truly a gargantuan tribute tailored towards the most elite of all musical royalty.

While the world is still reeling at the passing of the “King of Pop,” who was certainly “Gone Too Soon,” “Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour” is truly a gargantuan tribute tailored towards the most elite of all musical royalty.

Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil

Image Provided by Cirque du Soleil

In the first of two packed shows at Chicago’s United Center (where it returns on Saturday, July 21), no less than 63 musicians, dancers, acrobats and specialty artists (including five actual MJ band members) took an impassioned two hour trip through Jackson’s celebrated catalogue. Add in 35 trucks worth of production that switched grandly every few performance pieces, and it’s surely the largest operation on the road right now.

While the show was certainly sizeable enough to reach even those in the furthest of rafters, there was still plenty of warmth thanks a soundtrack ripe with full or snippet renditions of more than 35 tunes that traced The Jackson 5 through solo superstardom. Writer/director Jamie King (Jackson, Prince and 12 years with Madonna) did a remarkable job sculpting the set list to evoke a concert environment, which coupled with the cast’s intricate dances, acrobatics and contortions, made for an evening that was just as musical as it was visual.

After blasting off with a megamix of hits, fans were given a flashback to the star’s formative years with a mime arousing the audience’s curiosity to the ever so appropriate sounds of “Childhood.” From there, the dance party revved up to the throbbing beats of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” and the colorfully choreographed “Dancing Machine,” which took the thrills to the next level thanks to a little help from some motorized, robot-like cables.

Another major highlight in the first act was a J5 medley of “I Want You Back,” “ABC” and “The Love You Save,” followed by some breathtaking aerial stunts throughout “Human Nature,” accented with synchronized blinking lights on each of the dancer’s suits. Live action scenes inspired by the ghoulish “Thriller” video also delighted just prior to intermission, though the second half is when Jackson’s songwriting genius, along with his humanitarian spirit, really leapt to life.

“Earth Song” served as a socially conscious scene that urged everyone to preserve the planet’s natural resources, reinforced even more poignantly when introduced by the star’s self-penned “Planet Earth” poem. In the wake of his untimely passing, “I’ll Be There” came across as the bittersweet moment of the night, especially as a video of a youthful Michael performing the song melded gorgeously with simply live keyboard accompaniment.

Even so, “Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour” ended on several celebratory notes with the crowd grooving to an elaborate, circus-styled rings act centered around bits of “Can You Feel It” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” alongside plenty of moonwalking during “Billie Jean” and flag-waving throughout “Black Or White.” Add in a jubilant finale of “Man In The Mirror” where the entire entourage gallantly sang and bowed their way through a moving salute, and there was simply no better way to celebrate the legacy of possibly the world’s greatest all around entertainer.