The Cirque du Soleil's upcoming Michael Jackson show, a $57-million US extravaganza to debut in Montreal in fall 2011, will be "a celebration of dance and spectacle," vows the production's creative team.
Written and directed by high-profile concert director and former Jackson dancer Jamie King, Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour will combine the late King of Pop's iconic musical oeuvre and choreography with the Cirque's signature artistry, dance and aerial displays.
"I wouldn’t compare this show in any way to other Cirque productions that have come about thus far," King told Canadian journalists by phone from Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon.
"This is an all-new production, completely reinventing … the idea of Cirque, merging it with a rock 'n' roll/pop spectacle and touring it."
The 90-minute concert will involve approximately 65 artists (including dancers, acrobats and other performers), with auditions beginning this month in Los Angeles, Paris and New York, Chantal Tremblay, the tour's director of creation and a Cirque veteran of shows like Mystère and Love, said from Montreal.
The Jackson estate allowed the creative team access to the singer's original, master tracks to create as the show's score, but the tale told won't be a straightforward one, King said.
"It's more abstract in a way," he said. It's not linear"; it's not biographical … Essentially, it's a cast of characters that get transported into this world of Neverland: Michael's creative space."
The characters will include figures dubbed "M.J. Fanatics" and "a monkey-like creature" named Bubbles.
"In this fairy tale-like environment, we uncover and discover things about Michael: his love of nature, fairy tales, theatre, music, magic, dance, movies."
Taking cues from massive music world arena tours, the Jackson show will travel to more than two dozen cities across Canada and the U.S., beginning with two dates in Montreal in Oct. 2011. Other Canadian stops will include Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver and Quebec City.
Depending on the response, the show — reportedly the Cirque's most expensive touring show ever — could also travel abroad in 2012, John Branca, a co-executor of Jackson's estate, told reporters in Los Angeles.
"It's the opportunity of a lifetime for me," said King, who was a back-up dancer for Jackson's Dangerous world tour in the early 1990s and has since become a sought-after concert director who has helmed international tours for other pop superstars such as Madonna, Rihanna, Céline Dion and Britney Spears.
Working with Jackson "really defined who I am as a creator," King said.
"He was so influential in my creative path and what I chose to do in designing and directing rock shows.
"My level of performance and what I expect from my artists was based on what he showed me and taught me … [To go from] supporting him onstage to someone who is able to … carry on his legacy and his voice — it just feels amazing."
Cirque is also working with the estate on a separate Jackson-themed show for the MGM Mirage that is slated to join the Quebec-based company's permanent offerings in Las Vegas in 2012.