The best way to watch Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The ‘Immortal’ World Tour” is to indulge in its excesses and ignore its weaknesses.
Tuesday night, about 9,000 fans attended the first of two “Immortal” shows at the Sprint Center. If the only critique that matters is the level of the crowd’s enthusiasm, then Tuesday’s show was a success and worth the price of admission (between $50 and $175).
In a nutshell, the two-hour show, including a 20-minute intermission, is a dazzling, disjointed, rapid-fire feast of physical feats and visual effects propelled by a cast of many dozens and enflamed by the beloved music of the King of Pop.
Some of the skits and exhibitions, like the dance tributes to various Jackson videos, made sense. Others, like the inexplicable cello solo, made little sense. Some of the visuals, like some of the video appearances by Jackson, were appropriately sentimental. Others, like the large, dancing sequined glove and the dancing/DJ-ing Bubbles the chimpanzee, bordered on comical camp.
The show’s one thread, aside from Jackson’s specter, was the mime who opened the show with a skit that went on too long. He reappeared within the show and brought it to a close. Between his hello and goodbye, his fellow cast members — a legion of dancers, aerialists, acrobats, gymnasts — discharged a fusillade of physical feats while the arena rang with live and recorded music from Jackson and the Jackson 5.
There was plenty of flash and fire, hundreds of elaborate costumes, a stream of video images and more than two dozen songs, some of them folded into medleys. That set list focused on some of Jackson’s lesser-known songs at the expense of some of his blockbuster hits; for example, “Thriller” and “Beat It” got as much, or less, play time than songs like “They Don’t Care About Us” and “Earth Song.”
“Immortal” is directed by Jamie King, most famous for his work with Madonna, including her recent Super Bowl halftime spectacle.
His emphasis on pace is understandable, especially given the size of the venues on this tour. Arena shows require a presentation that is more dynamic than subtle, especially for those watching from the upper-level sections.
But some of the routines he and his choreographer, Travis Payne, developed could have used some refinements. Some of the aerial and gymnastic routines were just that, routine: aerialists swinging like pendulums, gymnasts doing high-flying somersaults. Anyone who has seen the aerialists with Quixotic Fusion knows what kind of breathtaking feats are possible, and, frankly, some of the “Immortal” routines didn’t meet Quixotic standards.
There were some impressive moments: the exhibition on the rings while Bubbles pretended to DJ; and the gymnasts who tumbled over, under and around one another during “Scream.”
Otherwise, most of the choreography was entertaining but predictable. It’s tough to impress when the moves you’re re-creating were made legendary by a dancer of Jackson’s talent and stature.
The show ended with some pageantry: fireworks, flashpots and a flag-waving skit that felt a bit like the closing ceremony at the Olympics, rendered in one-eighth scale.
It also ended with two of Jackson’s more uplifting numbers: “Black or White” and “Man in the Mirror,” songs about hope, unity and change.
I’m not sure the show “Immortal” is going to change anyone’s life or even impression of Michael Jackson. But given the mood inside the Sprint Center on Tuesday, I don’t think anyone was expecting anything more profound than a reminder of a sensational career that ended too soon and an opportunity to escape life in the world he left behind.