Cirque's Giant Tribute to Michael Jackson
By Jared Bowen
BOSTON — The biggest traveling show in the world rolls into Boston this weekend. Jared Bowen dances his way into Cirque du Soleil’s new Michael Jackson extravaganza.
Michael Jackson was the king of Pop and pomp. Cirque du Soleil relishes going over the top in the big top. Imagine then, the spectacle as Cirque takes on Jackson in its new stadium show, Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.
“It’s MJ rock concert meets the circus,” said Cirque dancer Shondra Leigh. “You get the best of both worlds. You get the flying and the acrobats and the cool costumes and the elaborate props and screens and everything but you also get the true MJ feel. You hear the music, you hear his voice”
Shondra Leigh is dancing in the show which mines the late singer’s genius—transposing his music with Cirque du Soleil’s own vocabulary of movement. Jackson’s influence though, prevails.
“[Michael Jackson’s choreography] is like a style of its own, it’s the same as ballet, tap, jazz, and then there’s MJ. It’s actually a form. It’s a thing you have to study, you have to master it and you know, there’s something oozy about it, it’s so smooth and sexy and crisp and so many things,” Leigh said.
It’s people with far greater talent than me who worked with many of Jackson’s colleagues and family to craft a show that nails the performer’s perspective. Many of them work inthe show.
“It’s completely changed my life, actually, in a lot of ways. It changed my perception because I got to learn more about it from a deeper root because we are so fortunate to have worked with people who directly worked with him, ” said Leigh;
The show is literally the biggest in the world right now says Artistic Director Tara Young.
“That’s largely due to our set and our human beings that are here. We have 35 trucks, which is the biggest arena show actually by… I don’t know really, by 10 trucks. We’ve broken records. We were the biggest show Madison Square Garden ever saw.”
Big show, big props from light up coffins used in Thriller, of course, to giant children.
Brian Blumeyer, Head of Props, shows me some items that make the show pop.
“This is our boy in the moon. He’s one of the m any props we have in the show. When we’re in the show we have a performer who actually gets in this thing, we roll him out on stage, we hook it up and we float it about 30 feet above the stage. And he’s in here basically manipulating, he can make the head spin and there are rods in the hands so he can manipulate the hands and arms. He’s behind a giant screen, it’s very life-like, eerie,” Blumeyer said.
There are thousands of costumes in the show—from dark to light.
“As you can see we can do quite a bit with them. This is not just a test mode for my technician to repair them and see what needs to be done on them,” Blumeyer added.
This is all very much the essence of Michael Jackson in a show that indeed ensures he remain immortal.
“Seeing it through [Jackson’s] brother’s eyes and his children, they are incredibly proud. To watch them see this show from the front row and they’ve seen it a few times, its absolutely heartbreaking,” Young said.
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About the AuthorJared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts.