Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" features more than 30 of Jackson's songs, along with many other sounds and snippets. Here are how a few are presented:
>"Childhood (Michael Jackson's Vision)"
The show begins with a video montage of Jackson, from his death at age 50 to his first filmed performances at age 6. Tara Young, the show's artistic director, says the first song "starts with the line, 'Have you seen my childhood?' and you have just seen him as a young child. It brings chills to me, because we are reminded right at the beginning of the huge scope of Michael Jackson." On stage, a mime awakens the golden statues at the gates of Neverland.
The Fanatics, five singers with huge Afros dressed in bright-flowered, plaid and striped clothing inspired by the Jackson 5's 1970s costumes, have a singing and dancing competition at the gates of Neverland. The show's musical designer, Kevin Antunes, says the Jackson 5 often included the three songs performed here -- "I Want You Back," "ABC" and "The Love You Save" -- in a medley. "Those three songs are legendary," he says. "I have seen the Jackson brothers do them so many times, and the way that the songs transitioned into each other, I wanted to make sure that they segued together the same way."
A 3-D version of the Neverland logo -- a young Michael perched on a crescent moon -- is suspended above the stage as artists representing the constellations fill the space above the stage. "Everybody loves 'Human Nature,' " says Antunes. There's an audible reaction, he says, "when people hear that synth line at the start, which is mixed in the arena in surround sound, so literally it starts to circle and envelope everybody. The rhythmic pattern of that song, the drums, have been altered to give it a more sensual feel and a more fantasy world feel. Michael's voice on 'Human Nature' is mixed a little bit louder than it was on his original album, and there are certain breaks and pauses in the music that weren't on his original records."
Jackson's original choreography and his iconic moves are carried out by acrobats and dancers dressed as mummies, in white with bright red innards, who frolic among coffins and tombstones. Antunes says at the start of the song, "I created this sound design, of horror, scary, creepy crawly environment. When 'Thriller' actually starts, it starts simply, with just finger snaps and Michael's voice. And you hear that whole first verse of Michael's voice without the underlying music, and it draws you in, then when it peaks at the chorus, it pauses and then it hits full volume with the band playing."
Jackson's famous sequined glove and penny loafers are brought to life, with dancers inside moving the sculpted shoes and glove. "It actually adds a little bit of humor, which is nice," says Young. "I think when you are going through this emotional ride, a little bit of humor is good."
-- Anne Neville