Cirque du The King of Pop returns to the stage – in spirit – when Cirque du Soleil brings “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour” to KeyArena on Wednesday and Thursday. The two-hour tribute show brings 65 performers and musicians to the stage and is one of the biggest Cirque shows going, said publicist Maxime Charbonneau. It requires 38 trucks to haul gear and sets.
The show was written and directed by Jamie King. King directed Britney Spears’ 2009 Circus Tour (which made a stop in Tacoma) and for the past 12 years, he’s been Madonna’s creative director. Those are just two of the many pop divas he’s worked with, a list that includes Celine Dion and Mariah Carey.
But King has a connection to Jackson as well: He worked for the pop icon as a dancer. And five of the show’s musicians worked for Jackson, including musical director and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, who played with Jackson for 20 years.
The show itself is a collaboration between Cirque, Sony Music and the Jackson estate. It combines Jackson’s music and choreography with the wild and whimsical creativity Cirque is known for.
Audience members will hear Jackson’s voice, but Charbonneau said, “There is no Michael impersonator. A lot of people ask that question.”
Tammy To, a dancer with the show, grew up in Bellevue and is a graduate of the University of Washington. This is her first Cirque show. To, 31, previously performed with Celine Dion on tour and in the 2010 movie “You Again.” She’s been rehearsing since May for the Jackson show that opened in Montreal in October. After its North American tour, it will take up residence in Las Vegas.
“It’s a hybrid of a pop rock concert. Dancers, acrobats, contortionists. Just a little bit of everything and it’s all put to Michael Jackson’s voice and music – the songs we know and love,” To said.
As is typical with Cirque shows, the story is not linear, Charbonneau said. “We’re more transported to various stages of his life. People will leave with a better understanding of who Michael Jackson really was.”
The Jackson show is Cirque’s third musical artist tribute show, following productions based on The Beatles and Elvis.
The show incorporates about 50 Jackson songs either in their entirety or in medleys. To said audience members will recognize choreography from “Thriller,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Billie Jean,” “Dangerous” and of course, the moon walk and the crotch grab.
To said Jackson choreographer Travis Payne worked with her and the other 25 dancers and was instrumental in getting Jackson’s signature moves correct. “He broke it down for us, every Michael nuance.”
The show will appeal to anyone who listened to a Jackson song, To said. “I don’t think you need to be a Michael Jackson fanatic. It really takes you on a journey.”
To herself is a lifelong Jackson fan. “As a dancer, you grow up listening to Michael. All of his music is iconic and danceable. To be able to go in to work and listen to Michael Jackson all day is incredible, and it never gets old.”
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, email@example.com ‘Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour’