Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE (Review) (Las Vegas)
Michael Jackson ONE – advertised as a “mesmerizing, gravity-defying, and immersive musical experience” – brings together music, acrobatics, dance, and spectacle in a living, breathing tribute to the King of Pop. Exclusive to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Michael Jackson ONE is Cirque du Soleil’s Sin City masterpiece – a dizzying and dazzling production that stands as the best possible way to experience live the music and legacy of Michael Jackson in light of his 2009 death. The most popular and successful musician of all time, the iconic performer’s spirit lives on in Las Vegas with Michael Jackson ONE – a must-see show that blends together the athleticism, grace, talent and showmanship of Cirque du Soleil with the distinctive sound and style of Michael Jackson.
The immersion into Michael’s world begins as guests move towards the Michael Jackson ONE theater, which is preceded by items on loan from the estate of Michael Jackson. Display items include a pair of leather shoes and accompanying Swarovski crystal socks (from the Dangerous tour), and Michael’s Red beaded military jacket (from the 1984 American Music Awards). The outside hall is adorned with successive images of Michael’s famous “Billie Jean” moonwalk, and the waiting room – periodically bursting to life with get-down hits such as “Black or White” and “Thriller” – becomes a practical dance floor, complete with a disco-esque light show. The doors open and you’re bombarded by the flashing cameras of the paparazzi, with lucky guests’ photos appearing in scummy tabloid magazine covers decorating the left and right video screen walls of the showroom.
Housed within Mandalay Bay, the Michael Jackson ONE theater features “over 550 lighting fixtures, almost 300 custom LED fixtures built into the show’s various set pieces, 26 projectors, 11 TV monitors, and a 40-ft-wide, 30-ft-high LED wall,” all of which are frequently utilized throughout the show. Archival footage of Michael Jackson through the years – from the time of the Jackson 5 to the time of HIStory and beyond – appears as does footage from many of his hit music videos, including “Thriller” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” The show incorporates over thirty of Michael’s beloved songs – number ones from “Beat It” and “Bad” to lesser known ballads such as “Speechless” – with all of the theater’s 1,804 seats using left, right, and center speakers (a total of 5,412 seat speakers alone) to envelop and immerse each and every guest in the music through a state-of-the-art surround-sound environment.
The theater and its stage regularly, frequently transforms, transporting its audience from the graffitied streets of the city, to a spooky, fog-ridden grave, to a beaming and brilliant galaxy full of stars, and everything in between. Brilliant set design and flashy lights present a beautiful, colorful backdrop for its 63 performers and the music, with practically every ounce of space in the theater – including the walls themselves – becoming a playground for the performers and the show. Acrobats descend from the sky, walk up the walls, float and leap above the viewers’ heads, while the stage boasts everything from looming structures, trampolines, props, and sets.
There’s a surplus of action, dancers, pyrotechnics, lights, and even martial arts, leading to what could be confused as being a chaotic display – there’s a lot of visual information, and you can lose track of where to look – but instead, there’s so much to see and take in that there’s always something to see, and always something to serve as the object of your fascination. The story, as loose as it is, follows a group of misfits who – upon interacting with Michael’s glasses, shoes, hat, and famous white glove – are imbued with wondrous abilities. The show is more abstract than narratively driven, with each set piece serving more as an expression of its respective song and the feelings and theatrics that the song inspires. “Dirty Diana” finds a gymnast manipulating herself along a pole, while “Earth Song” is the soundtrack to a beautiful shadow dance that uses perspective and visual trickery to practically hypnotize its audience.
There’s an unending stream of variety presented within Michael Jackson ONE, with “Thriller” – featuring the famous song of the best selling album of all time – proving itself to be the unanimous showstopper. The undead rise, shuffling into place amid fog and lightning, with the assemblage of zombies doing the unmistakable “Thriller” dance. Seeing a group of corpses flawlessly maneuver the famous “Thriller” dance, moving in seamless unison and becoming one, is simply the biggest moment in a show packed with big moments. Riotous applause followed every act upon completion, but “Thriller” set the house into a wild frenzy. “I’ll Be There” pays tribute to young Michael, while “Smooth Criminal” prompts wholly earned applause as its dancers pull off Michael’s anti-gravity lean. You’re awed again as the room goes pitch black, the famous opening bars of “Billie Jean” boom to life, while a team of dancers – clad in barely discernible outfits, their features cloaked in darkness – literally illuminate on the stage, their colorful, light-up suits creating a visual array and light show that can only be described as unforgettable.
Smaller, more intimate moments – a flexible, liquid-like dancer effortlessly pulling off Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves, practically floating across the stage – feature such touching tracks as “Smile,” Charlie Chaplin’s famous musical production, while “Man in the Mirror” touchingly finds the show’s dancers accompanied by none other than MJ himself, realized here through the use of a clear screen and projection. You’ll be dared not to dance and sing along to “Black or White” as the show’s big climax, before “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” closes out the show with a bang – and the kind of awe-inspiring spectacle and dynamic energy one can find only in a proper Las Vegas production.
Michael Jackson ONE is an electric crowd pleaser, with extravagance abound – and any Las Vegas experience is incomplete without a viewing. Succinctly stated, Michael Jackson ONE is an experience, and is among the best entertainment Las Vegas has to offer. Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE performs exclusively at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and comes highly recommended.