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August 21, 2014

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Photos: Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Immortal’ ‘is the show Michael would have wanted’

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Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. The world premiere of Immortal was in Montreal, the location of Cirque headquarters, on Oct. 2, 2011.

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Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour

Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. The world premiere of Immortal was in Montreal, the location of Cirque headquarters, on Oct. 2, 2011. Launch slideshow »

MONTREAL, Quebec -- The musical legacy of Michael Jackson’s creativity and genius will last forever thanks to an amazing marriage between The King of Pop and Cirque du Soleil. The world premiere of Michael Jackson’s The Immortal World Tour here in the French Canadian headquarters of the one-time circus troupe proved that point, and everybody from fans to family and estate executors to Cirque’s executives agreed that “this is the show Michael would have wanted.”

“It’s the show he would have signed off on,” director and choreographer Jamie King told me at the 13,000-seat, sold-out, opening-night spectacular with Jackson brothers Jackie, Tito and Marlon all agreeing in unison.

“Our mother must be bawling from the tears. Even we wiped away some tears. ‘Gone Too Soon’ was the most moving and emotional moment for us as a family. Michael’s message about peace and loving one another as we are all one really came through. Love is so important. He would have been very pleased with this production. He always went to see every Cirque show in Vegas, and, yes, he would have given a complete OK to this. He was a perfectionist, and Cirque was the same with Immortal,” they said backstage.

“It’s what Michael himself once dreamed of having with Cirque as a partner,” trustee and estate executor Howard Weitzman told me shortly after the two-hour visual and aural feast with its 24 musical scenes using more than 60(!) of the late superstar singer’s hits punched home with pyrotechnics and steam smoke cannons set against startling video treatments, holograms and effects.

Michael’s mom Katherine Jackson and his three children Blanket, 9, Paris, 13, and Prince, 14, watched the show at the Bell Center Arena after braving heavy rain to pose on the red carpet before the show. It was the first time Michael’s children had ever seen one of their father’s concerts.

There’s no impersonator, but Michael’s presence envelops this production. “He is very much alive -- his spirit , his hand, his guidance and strive for perfection -- is all over this,” Jamie told me. “That’s why we start every performance with a prayer circle, an emotional, spiritual moment with him and the cast.”

Cirque chief Daniel Lamarre said: “The most important thing for Cirque in this entire process was that all the Jackson family would be happy at what we created.

Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour: Red Carpet

The red carpet for Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour in Montreal on Oct. 2, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Michael Jackson's Immortal

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Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. The world premiere of Immortal was in Montreal, the location of Cirque headquarters, on Oct. 2, 2011.

“They were -- and the audience reaction was the same. Michael’s mother played the deciding factor in choosing Cirque for her son’s life to become this stage production. Michael’s executors wanted to follow Michael’s wishes of teaming with Cirque, and she approved that. We refused to hire any impersonators. The family didn’t want that, and we didn’t, either. There’s only one Michael Jackson. We see and hear him right through this show.

“Our gamble paid off tonight. It was a real risk for Cirque to enter the touring business. We have never brought a show to life before specifically for concert arenas. We rolled the dice, as you say in Vegas, but if Cirque was not to become stagnant, we had to grow. Immortal takes us where we have not gone before. This is Cirque’s first interpretation of a rock show, but we sold $40 million in tickets in the first 24 hours of announcing. That’s never happened before.

“Yes, there will be some changes and tightening. Normally, we have many previews to shake down a show. The only time we had with this was the one run-through performance yesterday [Saturday] for Cirque’s employees and the MGM executives from Las Vegas. So for the first night out, we are ecstatic and also relieved. After the second night here, they pack up and move on immediately. The tour is under way. Then it’s 47 North American cities for two years and the world for two more years after that. It might not ever end.”

Next weekend, it’s two nights in Ottawa and then onto Hamilton, London, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Vancouver before the U.S. premiere Nov. 15 in Detroit and the monthlong December stop at Mandalay Bay.

“Our month in Vegas starting Dec. 3 at Mandalay Bay is the most important to us. We already know though that some of the technology and elements we’ve used for the first time anywhere will be used in the new permanent residency show in Mandalay in 2013. So the touring show will be a wonderful preview of what will eventually come to Vegas permanently.”

The 180,000-pound, two-level stage spectacle packed up into 38 trailer tractors is an all-time touring concert record. Three trucks are just for the elaborate, unique and colorful costumes. There are tour buses for a cast and crew totaling 76 people, including 15 musicians.

Sensational lead singer Jory Steinberg and musical director Greg Phillinganes, who have found romance during the rehearsals, told me: “Michael is alive. You can feel his presence. He is at every show and has been since the very beginning. We even sense he is very pleased with this. It is what he wanted.”

Fans who came from as far away as Japan, South America, Europe and the United States were just as enthusiastic, giving the cast and crew huge applause and standing ovations.

“It was such a joyous night. It’s even better than we ever expected or dreamed possible,” Jackie Jackson summed up. “Michael would have given it 10 stars -- more than five out of five!”

Later this morning, read our rundown of the show itself and what you’ll see at Mandalay Bay starting Dec. 3. Also be sure to check out Senior Editor John Katsilometes’ thoughts in The Kats Report on LasVegasSun.com.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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