Michael Jackson is forever. The memory of the world’s greatest performer still hasn’t faded from popular culture, despite his 2009 death in Holmby Hills, Ca. Four of his brothers recently completed a run in Las Vegas as the Jacksons, performing hits they made with the sibling they often referred to as “big nose.” A second posthumous album from the gloved one, “Xscape,” drops early next month. And on April 15, “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” by Cirque Du Soleil made a tour stop at the Richmond Coliseum.
The show features the “King of Pop’s” hits along with more than 20 acrobats and dancers, a full band, special effects and a mime. It’s bad. It’s thrilling. And no, you can’t beat it. Unlike jukebox musicals that sometimes struggle to string a narrative out of group of unrelated songs, Cirque Du Soleil keeps things vague and allows you to focus on the action instead of some invented protagonist.
The show opens with banter between some dancers that come together on stage to create an MJ mural as a remixed version of “Workin’ Day and Night” plays. The dancers interact relatively seamlessly with digital images projected onto a screen, setting the stage for what the audience will see and hear for the evening: reworked Jackson songs with images and motion that reference his style and vision.
The show succeeds at moments such as this and later with such songs as “Human Nature,” when their interpretations don’t have to compete with a famous music video ingrained in the average fan’s brainwaves. The presentations based on “Thriller” and “Beat It” were ambitious and faithful, but fell a little short of their original video incarnations, as would just about anything.
Michael Jackson’s legacy and music are well curated by “The Immortal.” The song selection emphasizes the singers’ messages of love, faith, fun and hope. The show closes with Jackson’s signature song of introspection, “Man in the Mirror.” You might not leave this show feeling you’ve seen a Michael Jackson concert, but for those who never got the chance, this might be as good as it gets.