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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 29
Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson ONE is a real thriller
Arts & Entertainment
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Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson ONE is a real thriller

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

We know the songs. We watched the videos. We studied those moves. They're all legendary. Five years have passed since Michael Jackson left us, but his music and mega superstar persona live on. And thanks to Cirque du Soleil, fans can experience the King of Pop's musical highlights five nights a week at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Michael Jackson ONE opened June 29, 2013 exclusively at the Las Vegas hotel-casino to capacity crowds, and continues packing them in at the 1,800-seat venue. This is a different production than what Seattle audiences saw in 2011 when Michael Jackson THE Immortal World Tour came to Key Arena; there are a few similarities, but it's really an entirely separate concept, and the intimacy of the theater adds a lot more excitement to the show.

Unlike Immortal, where some of MJ's biggest hits were mysteriously omitted, ONE plunges deep into the multiple Grammy winner's catalog and features everything from his early days with The Jackson 5 to material off 2001's Invincible. As with any Cirque show, there's constant movement and much happening during the 90-minute performance, including dancing, acrobatics, trampoline maneuvers, juggling and whimsical skits. ONE also showcases the artist's original recordings; there is no singing or reinterpretation of Michael Jackson's classics, it's his voice heard pouring out from the speakers inside this fine acoustic theater.

The story centers around a quartet of 'misfits' - Clumsy, Shy, Smarty Pants, Sneaky - that enter the world of Jackson by immersing themselves in his music, and then magically embody his characteristics, inspiring messages and energy. Shy is an innocent, pig-tailed girl who transforms into a courageous, ninja warrior-like young woman when she puts on Jackson's sunglasses, while Sneaky goes from a klutzy nerd to a slick-skilled dancer when he slips on the icon's famed silver-glittered glove. Similarly, the other misfits change personalities when they come in contact with objects from MJ's long line of fashion statements.

Many of the song selections are sliced in half or thirds, although a few are played in their entirety. Directed by Jamie King, who collaborated on numerous tours with everyone from Madonna to Christina Aguilera to Jennifer Lopez, each track is matched with sharp choreography, jaw-dropping stunts, or aerial displays from the 63-member Cirque troupe that keeps the room captivated at all times.

'Beat It' is highlighted by bunjee jumping and swinging from high platforms, 'Smooth Criminal' revisits the music video with dancers dressed in Japanese gangster suits showing off some fancy footwork , and 'Human Nature' includes contortionists twisting and spinning themselves in interesting positions. It was also a neck-tilting experience when at various moments the audience looked up to see aerial performers dangling above our heads in thin air; during 'I Just Can't Stop Loving You,' they glided and floated gracefully while donning LED-lit outfits.

Two standout scenes from the show are 'Billy Jean,' where a line of male performers are also illuminated in cool LED lights and dance in perfect synch as they disappear and reappear before our eyes; and 'Man in the Mirror,' near the finale, where a guy sees illusions of himself at various stages of life while staring into a mirror. If you watched the documentary This Is It, you'll notice the exact opening sequence of futuristic soldiers in total synchronization during 'They Don't Care About Us'; this is how it was rehearsed for Jackson's last announced tour. 'Thriller' takes elements from its innovative video, such as the dancing zombies, and incorporates them into a trippy little skit, where performers sashay up the theater aisles past startled guests.

About 1,150 costume pieces are utilized during ONE, most of them designed from neoprene, a rubbery fabric often used for making wetsuits. An ensemble worn by a woman writhing around a pole during 'Dirty Diana' has 7,000 Swarovski crystals beaded onto it. The title of the production, ONE, comes from Jackson himself, who believed that all people are unique and equal, regardless of race or religion.

Michael Jackson ONE is a treat for the ears and a feast for the eyes. Everyone knows the music and millions have his songs or full-length albums downloaded onto their MP3s. But rarely do we have the privilege to celebrate it and enjoy it beyond our living rooms. Well, when in Vegas, if you really wanna be startin' somethin', take in ONE!

Back-to-back performances run Saturday through Wednesday at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Ticket prices are between $69 and $155, plus LIMITED Golden Circle seating, and are available for purchase 120 days in advance of performance date. There are no shows on Thursdays or Fridays. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be booked at www.cirquedusoleil.com/mjone or www.mandalaybay.com, or by calling either 1-800-632-7400 or 1-800-745-3000. If available, tickets can be purchased at the Michael Jackson ONE box office at Mandalay Bay. There is a gift shop adjacent to the theater to buy souvenirs before or after the show.

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