Cirque teams up with Jackson estate for shows

Cirque du Soleil, responsible for productions celebrating the music of the Fab Four and the King of Rock and Roll, is now set to tackle the King of Pop.
Michael Jackson was on the cusp of starting a sold-out concert series when he died in June 2009. The Cirque du Soleil touring and permanent shows will be inspired by his music. ((Joel Ryan/Associated Press))
Cirque du Soleil, responsible for productions celebrating the music of the Fab Four and the King of Rock and Roll, is now set to tackle the King of Pop.

The Montreal-based Cirque and Michael Jackson's estate announced on Tuesday a partnership to develop a number of initiatives, the first of which will be a touring arena show celebrating the singer, who died suddenly last June.

"As a creative challenge, this project is the ultimate," Cirque founder Guy Laliberté said in a statement.

"We will produce a Cirque du Soleil experience not only worthy of Michael, but unlike any other we have created before."

The recently opened Viva Elvis is the Cirque's second major show based on a musical icon after The Beatles-inspired Love. A forthcoming permanent Michael Jackson show will join them in Las Vegas in a few years. ((Julie Aucoin/Cirque du Soleil))
The touring show, which organizers expect to stage for an extended run in Las Vegas, is tentatively set to debut in North America in the fall of 2011 before moving to international stops.

A permanent Michael Jackson theatrical show is also to join similar music icon Cirque shows Viva Elvis, the recent Elvis Presley offering, and Love, its hit Beatles show, in Las Vegas.

The new Jackson extravaganza will be hosted at a MGM Mirage property and is slated for a 2012 opening.

Other projects in discussion include a nightclub tied to the Las Vegas production.

The Jackson estate and Cirque will share ownership of their joint projects and divide the costs and profits 50-50. However, the estate will also receive royalties from any of the King of Pop's music or other intellectual property used.

"This will not just be a tribute to Michael's musical genius, but a live entertainment experience that pushes boundaries," said John Branca, co-executor of Jackson's estate.

"Having attended Cirque du Soleil performances with Michael, I know he was a huge fan."

Unreleased tracks

According to Branca and fellow co-executor John McClain, unreleased Jackson tracks may become part of the musical numbers in the two shows, alongside remixed versions of his hits.

McClain also revealed that an album of songs Jackson recorded but never released is also forthcoming in November.

Jackson, 50, died on June 25, 2009 — just ahead of highly anticipated comeback concert series in London. Authorities ruled his death a homicide, citing the primary cause of death as acute intoxication from the powerful anesthetic propofol, with other sedatives in his system also a contributing factor.

His personal physician at the time of his death, Conrad Murray, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case.

Love, inspired by and featuring the remixed music of The Beatles, is one of the Cirque's big successes in Las Vegas. ((Tomas Muscionico/Cirque du Soleil))

With files from The Associated Press