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April 16, 2014

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Cirque du Soleil plans Michael Jackson show in Las Vegas in 2012

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Associated Press

Michael Jackson at a press conference at O2 Arena in London on March 5, 2009.

Cirque du Soleil and Michael Jackson

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Kenny Ortega, Michael Jackson and Simon Fuller.

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Kenny Ortega and Michael Jackson with the 12 dancers selected for Michael's upcoming This Is It concert run at London's O2 Arena. The dancers were chosen from 5,000 applicants.

Cirque du Soleil is bringing a Michael Jackson show and nightclub to Las Vegas in 2012 following an arena touring show debuting in late fall next year. Two great forces in entertainment have joined together in this announcement of an unprecedented arrangement between Cirque and the Michael Jackson estate.

Executors John Branca and John McLain represented the Jackson estate in the deal with Cirque. Cirque will create, develop, produce and promote the projects with touring and permanent shows based on the music and songs of the late King of Pop.

Check out the Cirque and Michael Jackson alliance on YouTube.

The biggest guessing game now is which MGM complex wins the Michael Jackson Cirque show, the eighth Cirque show in Las Vegas! Our Senior Editor John Katsilometes has a guess in his The Kats Report on the Las Vegas Sun. Is this bigger than Viva Elvis? Does one existing Cirque show move out of town or is the Michael Jackson show simply added to the roster of Las Vegas shows?

As part of the deal, a nightclub to open with the Las Vegas production also will be developed. Cirque du Soleil is a Montreal-based company recognized the world over with more than 5,000 employees and artists from more than 40 countries.

“Having attended Cirque du Soleil performances with Michael, I know he was a huge fan,” John Branca said in a statement. “We are excited to be partners with Cirque du Soleil to give Michael’s fans a truly unique way to hear, see and feel Michael’s music,” he said.

The Jackson estate and Cirque du Soleil will each own half of each project in the deal and split development and production costs, estate representatives said. Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother, said in a statement, “Our family is thrilled that Cirque du Soleil will pay tribute to my son in such an important way.”

Michael Jackson died last June 25 at age 50 in Los Angeles. Authorities have said he suffered an overdose of powerful medications.

Updated @12:52 p.m.

Vegas DeLuxe has learned that the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil touring show will first run as a showcase in Montreal for just two weeks and then come to Mandalay Bay Events Center late next year for an as-yet-undetermined multiple-week residency before starting a world tour.

No decision has been made yet on the MGM property that will host the resident show when it’s finally produced in 2012. I have been told that technology that Michael Jackson himself had supervised for the This Is It run of concerts at London's 02 Arena will be used in the Las Vegas shows, with even more advanced innovative and cutting-edge technology to be specially developed, including 3D.

MGM Marketing President Bill Hornbuckle told me moments ago: “Over the last 40 years, three entertainment icons changed the face of music: Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Michael Jackson. MGM and Cirque now have the ultimate trio.

“MGM Cirque and Michael Jackson’s lawyers worked on this deal for the past two months, and we’re obviously very excited. The lawyers came to Las Vegas a few weeks ago to see Viva Elvis, Love and the O shows before giving the OK. No current Cirque show will be dropped. This will be a new addition -- the eighth!”

Bill also told me that incredibly years ago, there were preliminary talks among Michael, Cirque and MGM, but nothing specific materialized. He added: “There have been very preliminary talks about constructing a new theater for this show because of the technology that will be implemented, but it’s too early for there to be any specifics about that. Now that the announcement has been made, all of that planning gets underway.”

One entertainment insider commented: “The world will come to Las Vegas for this Michael Jackson show. In one fell swoop, Las Vegas fortunes are restored, and every MGM hotel will be filled for years. It truly is the one destination now for Michael’s fans from all around the globe. It will create an even bigger phenomenon.”

Updated @1:12 p.m.

In a one-on-one exclusive, I just interviewed Cirque du Soleil President Daniel Lamarre, who told me that he first met Michael in 2004 and gave him a tour of the Montreal headquarters. “He was a big Cirque fan and saw all our shows,” Daniel said. “The last one he saw was Love at The Mirage.

“We flirted sporadically but over many years talking about how a Cirque show would interpret his songs and his music. We only finished the agreement in the last few hours. His mother told us all, ‘Michael always wanted to work with Cirque, so do this.’ It was her approval that sealed the deal. She played a major role in Cirque winning against many others interested in such a show.

Daniel added: “I want Mrs. Jackson and the fans to be very proud of what we create. There will be no Michael Jackson impersonators. There is only one Michael Jackson!”

Daniel invited me to Montreal for Day 1 of the creation team at work on the Michael Jackson show, so we’ll go there for that and report weekly as it develops. He also revealed that Michael’s estate, MGM and Cirque will bring in a fourth partner to create the most advanced and innovative technology.

Daniel said Cirque’s creative team is already looking at This Is It dress rehearsal videos to use in the shows.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.