Fans expecting a traditional Cirque du Soleil show when they attend the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour were disappointed last night at the Key Arena.
The show is more Jackson than Cirque and lacks spectacular moments replacing them with occasionally thrilling choreography and some genuinely nostalgic visits to Michael’s early days.
Running through last night’s show however was a series of technical mishaps which were hard for the adults in attendance to ignore. An unscheduled intermission was announced midway through the first set due to technical difficulties.
It meant the first act finished on a low, where their exciting rendition of Jackson’s greatest set piece “Thriller” had been set for the curtain.
The dancers, musicians and acrobats battled through it like true pros but never conveyed the impression that the marriage between the show and the Key Arena was a happy one.
The sound was often too loud and there just did not seem to be an easy accommodation between a show with this complexity and the need to fill all corners of the arena with his music.
If you can overlook all that, and many of the younger attendees could, the show was a fitting tribute to the man and his music, even if there were one or two moments of slavish adulation where the man they were describing sounded more like Gandhi than the youngest member of the Jackson 5.
32-year-old French hip hop artist Salah Benlemqawanssa led us through the night miming his awe at the world created by Jackson’s songs. If he took the view of a child listening to Jackson’s music, the teenage whimsy was added by five actors called the Fanatics; Tomohiko Tsujimoto, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Julio Santiago and Levan Torchinava who provided acrobatics, some great dancing and decent comedy.
They were our tour guides, seemingly trying to find their way in the style of the Wizard of Oz story, to the Neverland ranch. The Bourgeois boys can certainly dance the Jackson style but it was Sanitago who thrilled the more culturally inclined, with his high speed pirhouettes.
The first of some excellent technical effects went off without a hitch as Jackson’s face appeared at a window they had erected with large blocks of wood, peering into the building.
There were many such incredible effects but they began to wear thin as lights failed to illuminate and screens showed black rectangles where prettiness should have been seen.
One moment where they really drew breath was where they abandoned using as much technology as they could muster.
They used the backdrop of the old Jackson Five TV cartoon series as the backdrop to a medley of the early hits. It worked superbly and was one of two moments where the hardest heart would have to have conceded the greatness of the singer, unquestioningly accepted by the majority of the audience.
The other was nearer the end with the superb Heal the World set where giant robots with hearts lit up on their torsos perform a quasi-military drill.
Anna Meknikova produced one of the few ‘Cirque-style’ moments with her arial pole dance, and contortionist Baaska Enkhbaatar also provided one of the few moments not based on dancing or Jackson’s music.
Late on, they allow the entirety of the song “I’ll be There” to be played on the large screen and the video of Young Michael, just singing, without 100 dancers or heavily produced videos, is just fantastic.
Lastly, the acrobat with one leg who juggled a ball with his crutches was incredible.
Overall, fans of Cirque will be disappointed with paying large amount of money to see their members mostly dancing.
Michael Jackson fans will appreciate the love the Cirque gives his work.