Some out there may believe Michael Jackson is still alive, but most of us suspect he'll never emerge from his coffin “Thriller”-style for a glorious comeback. Perhaps the next best thing, dance guru Jamie King has partnered with Cirque du Soleil for a new show, Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour, which starts tonight at Staples Center and runs through the weekend.
King — the King of Thrill! (see page three) — started dancing for Jackson in 1992, and says that his show gets into “Michael's head.” That said, he went out of his way to omit the controversial bits, though that's probably to be expected. If you can leave your cynicism behind, you can expect a dazzling menagerie of dancers, costumes, and theatrics. We spoke with King about the performance and his relationship with MJ.
How did you get to know Michael Jackson, and how did that help you create this show?
I had the honor of working Michael in 1992 on the Dangerous Tour as a dancer many years ago and that experience was invaluable. Without it I don't think I could have created the show I was able to create. Michael was one of my greatest teachers and he taught me how to produce and design and create the greatest live shows. Not only learning that from him but also being around him and watching him be a perfectionist.
How is this show unique?
Well I think it is that fusion between Michael's world, the rock world and Cirque. Imagine the greatest dancers and the greatest costumes and the greatest performers, but taken to another level — as Michael would have imagined it if he had the opportunity to work with Cirque.The most important thing for me was to create the right environment–the environment that made sense for Cirque and Michael to meet. For me that was Neverland Ranch. Michael created Neverland as a kind of solace, an escape place where he could be an artist. When I went there, when I took my creative team there, I go, okay this makes sense. Then it all started to unfold. So for the audience, that's what they are going to feel is new and different–it's like Michael's world on steroids. [Laughs.]
Will we see any of Jackson's controversial side in the show?
I made an executive decision — a creative decision — to not really go there with dark times of Michael, because that wasn't the best way to honor him. For me this show needed to be a celebration of the man, his legacy, what he really gave to the world–how he inspired and influenced the world.
What are you hoping the audience will take away from the show?
What I thought about was how to make the greatest show that honored and celebrated Michael Jackson. I wanted to make sure the audience knew the man that I knew, the man that I saw, that I was inspired by. I feel like so much of it can get clouded because of all the sensationalized press that happened later in his life but I wanted people to remember the great man. And in that, I hope that people find — because I do believe we are all connected — I hope that people find reflections of themselves in some way.
What were some of the show's challenges?
Well, there was no Michael. I am used to having the star there. That's how it started but that's certainly not how it ended. In the end it was more like, no, Michael is here, he is our story teller, and he is really guiding us on this journey through Neverland. He was there in spirit. His essence was there, and it is reflected in the costumes, the music, the dance.