MAINTAINING the musical legacy of Michael Jackson is no small feat, but Cirque du Soleil’s new show is up to the task, says stage manager Laura Silverman.
“It’s extremely important to us,” she says. “It’s interesting because most people in the world, even if they aren’t huge Michael Jackson fans, know at least a couple of his songs, and when you watch our show and hear the songs you know and maybe a few more you didn’t know were his, you realise how vast his musical catalogue is. There are also moments when you just hear his voice, and you realise when you take away the sequin gloves, the moonwalk, and all the headlines and everything, he still was such a talented musician. His talent can give you chills; he changed the entertainment industry forever, and everyone involved in the show is grateful for the chance to carry on his legacy. We want the audience to enjoy Michael’s music from the early days of the Jackson 5, to his later hits from just before he died.”
The Michael Jackson: The Immortal show brings together the best of Jackson’s music and all the elements that Cirque du Soleil is known for.
“It’s Cirque du Soleil meets rock-pop concert,” she says. “Fans will see all the acrobatic elements they know Cirque for, and of course Michael Jackson’s music. There are a lot of his dance moves in the show, his iconography, his costumes, his messages, and his voice. We were given unprecedented access to all his original master tracks, and what you’re hearing is Michael’s voice from the original tracks played with a live band, so you feel like you’re at one of his concerts. When you put those two entities together you come up with something pretty wild.”
“Michael was always a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil,” she continues. “He saw one of the very first shows in Santa Monica California in the eighties, and then in 2007 he visited our headquarters in Montreal and just fell in love with it. He got lost in the costume department and met a bunch of the artists. They planned to one day work together, but unfortunately the opportunity didn’t come up, and then his estate approached Cirque du Soleil and decided this was the best way to create a show to celebrate him. We wanted to create a show that would pay tribute to his legacy, and who he was as an artist, and also that he himself would have loved and would have wanted to be a part of.”
Putting together a touring show of this size hasn’t been without headaches for the organisers.
“This show was designed specifically for arenas, and to feel much more like a concert than any other show,” she says. “The other shows that we’ve put on have been designed with the traditional big top in mind, so this throws up a whole new set of challenges. What we’ve found is when you’re touring at the pace that this show has been, you can have ‘big’, but you might not be able to have ‘that big’ as we’re going in and out of trucks twice or three times a week, and you have maybe only half a day to set everything up. So there are technical and logistical liberties that needed to be made to make the show as big as we wanted, but also be something that could travel as much as we need to. In the end we found a happy medium to get everything we wanted. There are 124 touring members, including 49 artists and all the support staff, from management, wardrobe, technicians and so on, and we hire about 150 locals in each city. The creative process for the show was about a year and half, which compared to other Cirque shows is quite short. This show was put together in about a year, then the artists spent just over four months learning their parts, so it’s still a fairly long process to get it up and running.”
The famously guarded Jackson family have given the show their blessing, adding that all-important element of authenticity.
“They were very supportive from the start,” she says. “Michael’s mother, kids, and brothers came out to the world premiere in Montreal in 2011. They came to the premiere in Vegas as well, and his brothers came to Montreal during the rehearsal process to meet with the artists and creators. They’ve always been supportive of it, and told us that Michael would have loved this show, which is what we hoped for.”
MICHAEL JACKSON: THE IMMORTAL OPENS IN BRISBANE OCT 2.