Long Live the King of PopFan or not, Michael Jackson’s untimely death in 2009 signified the end of an era in pop music. And for better or worse, it ensured a veritable onslaught of Jackson-inspired revues, music and merch. But few tributes have the scope and grandeur of Cirque de Soleil’s Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour, which makes its Vancouver debut Friday, Nov. 4, a mere month after its world premiere in Montreal.
Immortal offers up a survey of Jackson’s impressive repertoire, from his cute-kid days in the Jackson Five through his solo heydays with Thriller, Bad and Dangerous to the eve of his much-hyped but never realized comeback. It’s exacting, precise and gloriously over-the-top — very much like the man himself, according to Immortal singer Fred White, who toured with Jackson during his HIStory Tour a decade ago.
“Every little nuance vocally, every ping of the cymbals or anything in percussion they do, every little move with the head or the hands, to even the stuff I do with the singing, everything is so detailed,” White says. “We had four choreographers who worked with Michael and they’re keeping it the way Michael would do it.”
By all accounts, Immortal is as obsessively by-the-book as Jackson was when it came to creative precision. The cast and production crew bios read like a sneak-peek of Jackson’s CV: White, musical director Greg Phillinganes and writer/director Jamie King and countless other Immortals earned their entertainment industry stripes under Jackson’s tutelage. On Cirque’s part, it’s ingenious: every member is emotionally invested in protecting Jackson’s legacy, and has first-hand experience with the man’s meticulous nature and legendary work ethic, ensuring there’s substance at the foundation of all the spectacle.
Immortal’s producers also secured previously unreleased and unheard Michael Jackson recordings, which are used throughout the show.
“There were tracks we heard of him singing that I’d never heard before,” White recalls. “I am still amazed by him. In particular, there’s a track of him singing ‘I’ll Be There,’ where his voice is isolated, and he was really young, and it’s like, ‘Wow. He was singing at that level at that young age.’ And he just kept getting better and better as he got older. That made me go, like, ‘Okay, I need to readjust. I thought I was really on it, but now I need to get it together!’ It got me to go to another level. He’s still teaching us now. It’s really great.”
Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour runs Nov. 4-6 at Rogers Arena. $50-$250 (TM).