Preview: Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour

By
From the June 7, 2012 edition

The “Thriller” dance is pretty much the coolest choreography of all time. So what if someone tried to improve upon it? Would Michael Jackson rise from his grave and shake his white-gloved finger at them?

Not if it’s Cirque du Soleil. The circus troupe has added awe-inducing acrobatics to the original “Thriller” routine as part of the colossal “Michael Jackson: The Immortal” show. Cirque also has created its own take on the “Smooth Criminal” choreography, complete with a whole gang of dancers doing that famous, gravity-defying lean toward the ground. And the dancers and acrobats perform to music by a live band that accompanies Jackson’s voice.

“It’s Cirque du Soleil meets rock concert,” said Cirque spokeswoman Laura Silverman. “The Immortal” contains all of the acrobatic elements and contortion acts that make Cirque so famous, but the show’s focus is on Jackson’s contributions to music and dance.

His estate gave the original tracks from his music to the production, which is how they’re able to have him sing more than 35 of his best-known songs over a live band.

It’s no ordinary band, though.

Greg Phillinganes, the production’s musical director and keyboard player, had been Michael Jackson’s musical director. The two worked together for more than 25 years. The show’s drummer, Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett, was Jackson’s drummer for 30-plus years and was supposed to play on the This Is It tour that never happened. Half of the 12-piece band worked with Jackson — some of them for their entire careers.

“The band is really the link to Michael,” Silverman said. “It just adds to that excitement of the show.”