Michael Jackson fans of all ages can relive simpler times in complex ways at the hands of a Cirque du Soleil extravaganza equal to the talent of the man himself.
MGM Resorts International
Is it even a stretch to set Michael Jackson’s career to acrobatics? The man was practically an acrobat himself, so it seems redundant. If he had auditioned for Cirque du Soleil, I bet they would have hired him.
But Michael is with us no more, and so it is left to “Michael Jackson: ONE” by Cirque du Soleil at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to capture the immense physical talent that helped propel MJ to superstardom.
Obviously they have a lot of material to mine. Dressed in various costumes that evoke rather than imitate Michael’s sensibility – glitter, stylized street clothes, that fedora hat – ensembles and individuals channel the King of Pop through choreographies rife with his signature moves. The Moonwalk is represented, as well as spins, pop-and-lock limb and head snaps, and that gravity-defying lean that still qualifies as magic in my book.
Some numbers are expected, bordering on mandatory. To the strains of “Thriller,” the ensemble dresses as zombies, and fear not – they do that campy creep-to-the-left, creep-to-the-right move.
Other sequences spring off the source material a little further. The male cast members dress as fedora-wearing gangsters for “Smooth Criminal,” like Michael and his compatriots in the iconic music video. Then the female cast joins the fun, dressed as Chicago gangster molls in flapper dress, with dance steps more reminiscent to the Charleston than R&B.
This is a Cirque show, so expect detours into the avant-garde – most notably during “Billie Jean.” The show itself is replete with jumbotron archival footage of Michael, and cinemascreen-Michael himself gets the stage to himself for most of his most iconic song. The reverie of remembrance of this lost talent segues into a continuation of the song performed in the dark by dancers wearing glow-in-the-dark suits, patched so that only their hats and the lines of their limbs and trunks are visible. They look like fedora-wearing, dancing neon stick figures. It’s a cool effect.
It’s not all dancing, either — aerialists, contortionists, trapeze artists, and other hallmarks of Cirque are incorporated, including a super cool guy who bounces on a trampoline upsidedown, and four trapeze artists swinging around the same parallel bar, risking a four-acrobat smashup if someone messes up (spoiler alert – they don’t). Like many Cirque shows, there is also a twee storyline that follows four young MJ fans on a quest to find artifacts from Michael’s life – his shoes, his hat, his glove, etc.
Ultimately, though, at $100 a ticket, this is like watching a show of Michael’s backup dancers. A pretty spectacular show, mind you, but with an undercurrent of melancholy – his dancers are here, but where is Michael?
Cirque du Soleil has an answer to that too, conjuring up, for the penultimate number, the Michael Jackson hologram (of Billboard Music Awards fame). Holo-Michael dances and “interacts” with the cast, bursting into a cloud of sparkles when touched, only to reconstitute elsewhere on the stage and lead a rousing choreography while lip-synching to the cathartic “Man in the Mirror.” It’s the most magical moment a Cirque show has conjured in years … but there was always something magic about Michael, a little too magic for this world.
VERDICT: In “Michael Jackson: ONE” at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, MJ fans of all ages can relive simpler times in complex ways at the hands of a Cirque du Soleil extravaganza equal to the talent of the man himself.