Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour — Cirque du Soleil

Staples Center

January 27, 2012

Better than …This Is It in 3-D

Of course there was a flash mob, superfans in zombie getup busting their best “Thriller” moves outside the Staples Center box office while the crowd filed in. This was a Michael Jackson show, after all. Last night, MJ was present, if in spirit only: like it says in the Bible, where two or three come together in the King's name, there is he with them.

The show kicked off in a subtle fashion, with just three dancers (one was the main “ghost of MJ” character, who later proved to be incredible) performing a video game-like dance sequence in front of an LED screen. Latecomers took their seats, and with that segment over we were ready to turn the place out.

But instead, the next number was set to “Childhood.” Visions of a young Michael set against a Neverland backdrop were simultaneously an homage to his early days and a bit of a downer. Visually stunning, of course, because it's Cirque du Soleil, but oof, such a sluggish opening.

The Jackson 5 with some serious fros.; Credit: OSA Images

The Jackson 5 with some serious fros.; Credit: OSA Images

“Wanna Be Starting Something?” Yes we do, finally. With that song came uptempo beats and a packed stage. Morphing into a Jackson 5 medley, boys in afro wigs the size of beach balls shimmied and shook quite like the original brothers.

There were colors everywhere. The choreography was out of this world and the technique impeccable. Michael Jackson had only the best dancers by his side, and this crew easily fit that mold.

But where were the acrobatics? At Cirque du Soleil, you expect some death-defying feats by at least 15 minutes in, but as of that point, we'd barely seen any.

That changed with “Dancing Machine,” which took on a post-apocalyptic industrial theme, and finally gave us a bit of an aerial show. Nothing to write home about, though — mostly just really elegant Tarzan-like swinging.

Dancing Machine, in which the dancers finally took flight.; Credit: OSA Images

Dancing Machine, in which the dancers finally took flight.; Credit: OSA Images

The dancers waded through “Ben,” then kicked it through “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Smooth Criminal,” which featured the first serious video tribute. Now, certain performances just shouldn't be reinterpreted, and “Smooth Criminal” is one of them. The original vision was simply too great. But this dance sequence definitely did it justice, and even worked in a few pyrotechnics.

Still, we couldn't help ourselves. Where were the trampoline flip turns and spinning wheels of death? We came to see some acrobatics, dammit, and it wasn't happening. We were beginning to think our time would have been better spent at Jumbo's Clown Room.

Then, as if Cirque were psychic, a pole appeared, and on it, a woman in a sequined bikini who apparently carries the strength of God in her thighs. Clearly she was put on this Earth to blow our minds.

And then the star of the show — a ghostly figure in a white sequined sweatsuit — dropped our jaws a little further during a solo performance to “Another Part of Me.” The man had no bones. He had no limits. He did things no human should be able to do. To watch him dance, even on his own, was worth the ticket price.

We got our contortionist fix during “Is It Scary,” which led into the macabre “Thriller” sequence — another homage to the video, rightfully so.

"Is It Scary"? Maybe a little bit.; Credit: OSA Images

“Is It Scary”? Maybe a little bit.; Credit: OSA Images

The original "Thriller" dance.; Credit: OSA Images

The original “Thriller” dance.; Credit: OSA Images

After intermission, the acrobatics picked up a bit with a stellar aerial sequence featuring pixelated glowing human bodies. These are the kinds of unimaginably fantastic visuals people look to Cirque to provide, and here, they delivered.

Robo-soldier dancers marched the crowd toward the end to the tune of “They Don't Really Care About Us,” then smoothed things out with “Will You Be There.” A fairly long encore followed, featuring a few more aerial tricks and a performance of “Black or White” that included every flag on Earth and the spirit of global unity MJ was known for.

If you love Michael Jackson, or razor-sharp choreography, or '80s and '90s nostalgia in any way, you will love this show. It's a great way to revisit the King of Pop, because it invokes him, even if, to our dismay, there weren't as many back handsprings as we'd hoped.

The crowd: Families rocking sequined MJ jackets and single gloves.

Random Notebook Dump: Hold on, is the Bubbles onstage a real chimp? No, no way. Wait, is he?

Overheard in the Crowd: Mamasaymamasamamakusa

Set list below.

Working Day and Night


Starting Something

Jackson 5 Medley

Dancing Machine


Heartbreak Hotel

Smooth Criminal


Another Part of Me

Human Nature

Is It Scary



I Just Can't Stop Loving You

Beat It/Bad Medley


Earth Song


They Don't Really Care About Us

Will You Be There


Can You Feel It

Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

Billie Jean

Black or White

Man in the Mirror

Follow Ali Trachta on Facebook and Twitter @MySo_CalLife.

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