Michael Jackson had always hoped to do a show with Cirque du Soleil, and on Sunday that dream came true.
The Immortal World Tour debuted at the Bell Centre, combining acrobatics and dance with the King of Pop's massive catalogue of hits spanning more than four decades.
From ABC to Thriller, the high-octane performance did not disappoint.
It was also a tribute to Jackson's lasting impact on dance and fashion — from his patented moonwalk to his iconic white glove.
At one point, a pair of giant dancing black dress shoes with white socks graced the stage, and at another, a pack of acrobatic werewolves. But Jackson and the circus? It's a perfect fit, according to his brother Jackie.
"First of all, Michael [was] a great fan of Cirque [du Soleil]. He's seen all the shows," Jackie, who arrived with his brothers Tito and Marlon, told reporters just before the show.
"And to have Cirque and Michael together, you expect to see something fantastic."
Jackson's mother Katherine and his three children were also at the show, making a brief appearance beforehand for a photo-op.
The family made the trip to the premiere from Los Angeles, where the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conray Murray, Jackson's doctor, is underway.
The show packed 60 hits into about an hour and a half, starting with the Jackson 5 and ending with Jackson's last studio album. It did not, however, dare imitate the man himself — no single performer plays the role of Jackson.
"We were very clear on this, and I think the family was too," said Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil.
Lamarre said he had the blessing of Jackson's mother to go ahead with the show.
"Many people were interested in doing shows to pay tribute to Michael Jackson," Lamarre said.
"His mother said Michael has always wanted to do a show with the circus, so if there is a show about Michael, it will be Cirque du Soleil."
While a wholehearted tribute, the performance didn't glaze over Jackson's eccentricities, with Bubbles the chimpanzee making more than one appearance. It also alluded to a darker side. To the tune of Jackson's song Childhood, where he laments never having had one, dancers swayed above the entry sign to the now infamous Neverland Ranch while a child looked longingly through a window.
In another tune, Jackson is heard pleading "I need my privacy, get away" as clips of the TV news media play in the background.
The $60-million tour has stops in cities across Canada and the United States, with Ottawa as the next stop on Oct. 7. The Jackson estate authorized and took part in the project.
Before the show, more than 100 fans waited in the rain for a glimpse of the famous family on the red carpet. One group of women wore single white gloves and black leather jackets in homage to Jackson.
"I've been a fan since I first saw him on TV in 1969 when I was nine," said Montrealer Shirley Elvis.
"When I first heard this show was coming, I think everyone was in a really dark place and when we heard that they were going to do this it was like another gift from Michael from beyond."
A new album tied to the show, and titled simply Immortal, is set for release in November.