Sources: Las Vegas Magazine – Matt Keleman | All Things Michael
Before the curtain first lifted on Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE in June 2013, original cast member and acrobat Aleksandr Wade articulated a sentiment that he seemed to imply was shared by his fellow performers: “You’ll probably hear it a thousand times: I’m the little kid that did ‘Thriller’ in his PJs.” And it’s not just the performers who started out as amateur moonwalkers; the creative team that developedMichael Jackson ONE includes people with a history working with or for Jackson himself, most notably writer-director Jamie King.
But while Jackson was an international celebrity, it was his inner world that interested the creators ofMichael Jackson ONE.
In bringing that inner world alive, ONE’s creators employ a cast representing at least 18 countries—six of the principal characters hail from five different continents. The four “misfits” personifying aspects of Michael Jackson’s character are played by Brazilian Gabriel Amaral (Clumsy), Italy’s Jade Xu (Shy), New Zealander Reimy Jones (Smarty Pants) and France’s Xavier Mortimer (Sneaky).
Ngame, the Moon Goddess who floats above the audience on a crescent-shaped celestial body, is played by Valerie Kimani of Kenya, while Wink, the nimble dancer set free from Michael’s Magic Trunk, is portrayed by U.S.-born Trent Jeray Mendoza.
“Beat It” rocks the house through the theater’s surround sound system as 18 dancers in white fedoras re-create iconic Jackson moves. The misfits (and the audience) are pulled into “The Vortex” as time goes haywire and bungee acrobats bounce with the controlled chaos. Once media mash-up machine Mephisto is established as the antagonist, the King of Pop’s four positive actions—hope, comfort, dream, believe—are subsequently manifested through physical, visual and sonic expression.
This inner universe becomes emotionally affecting as the Moon Goddess appears during “Stranger in Moscow,” with Jackson’s chill-inducing “how does it feel” hook taking the show in a melancholy direction. That mood continues when the misfits release Wink—the physical embodiment of a magical song—to a medley of “I’ll Be There,” “Human Nature” and “Never Can Say Goodbye.” There are more poignant moments ahead, such as sequences tailored to “Smile” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.”
But there’s no shortage of excitement either. Shy’s turn fighting off Mephisto with a martial arts staff and wushu expertise during “Jam” spins the stage into action after Wink’s emergence. Add in gravity-defying acrobatics on slacklines and trampolines, stunning sound design, fantastical combinations of choreography and special effects—from the LED-laden “Billie Jean” warriors to an ingenious sequence using silhouettes—and an inspirational sequence by one-legged dancer Jean Sok of France (to “Can You Feel It”), and you have one thriller of a Vegas experience. The King of Pop may be gone, but the magic that made kids around the world dance in their pajamas lives on.
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