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August 23, 2014

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Cirque du Soleil plots Michael Jackson show post-‘Zarkana,’ ‘Immortal’ success


Michael Morales/Cashman Photography

Brian Dewhurst, Bruce Rickerd, Sophia Stiperski, Eligiusz Skoczylas, Daniel Lamarre, Najam Khan, Ross Gibson, Ricardo Galvis and Ginger Ana Griep-Ruiz at the 18th anniversary performance of “Mystere” at Treasure Island on Saturday, March 3, 2012.

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 »

Reveling in the success of the Michael Jackson touring show “Immortal,” Cirque du Soleil President Daniel Lamarre has revealed details of the full-time-residency King of Pop production set to open at Mandalay Bay in May.

Daniel told me: “We are talking May 23 for the first-night of previews, with the grand gala opening June 21. The Montreal studio right now is moving and shaking with Michael Jackson rehearsals. It will be totally different from the touring show.

“The tour was a rock arena concert, but this will be highly theatrical. That’s the big difference, but there will still not be a Michael Jackson character in it.”

Cirque has still not decided on the show’s title, and the creative team is working on the visuals. Daniel explained: “For the moment, we want to keep all the lights focused on our new ‘Zarkana’ at CityCenter. Once it’s well established, which will take a couple of months, we’ll come back to you and start really talking about the new Michael Jackson show.

“However, I don’t want to confuse the two Michael shows. They are totally different. We have already learned from the touring show that people want to listen and see his complete hits. They don’t want a medley of songs; they want the full song.

“So it won’t be 23 songs in the theatrical version. We will probably have fewer, but we will play it full blast. None of the acts in the touring show will be used in the theatrical show. They will all be brand new -- nothing will have been seen before.

“There will be a lot of acrobatic acts, but they will be characters with the storytelling. It will be very different than anything else we have done.”

Daniel told me that costumes and makeup are being finalized in the next two weeks: “We are a collaboratory! We are right in the middle of it. We keep trying new things and new challenges. Everything is very much on target with the construction at the theater in Mandalay Bay.

'Zarkana': Red Carpet and Show at Aria

Cirque du Soleil's Launch slideshow »

'Zarkana': Parties at Gold Lounge and Haze

Siegfried Fischbacher, Dot Jones and Roy Horn attend the premiere of Cirque du Solei's Launch slideshow »

“You will be surprised with the changes there. … It is part of our signature. We love to change theaters in order to present our content the best way. … We will move the cast and crew to Las Vegas in March.”

I asked Daniel if it would be a re-creation of Neverland the audience would walk through. “We like the Neverland signature. You will see something of Neverland, but I don’t want to take you in the wrong direction,” he explained. “There is some Neverland, but it is not about Neverland. We have our own story line compared to other Cirque shows.

“It is an amazing combination of director Jamie King, who worked on the touring show, and a young man, Welby Altidor, who is the creative director. He has been with Cirque a long time -- he has grown with Cirque. He is really bringing something different to the signature of the show. “

Daniel told me that once the production is together and installed in Las Vegas, Cirque founder Guy Laliberte will then be here to finish the production and give the green-light go.

Meantime, “Immortal” continues to break records and win awards. “We won the most creative arena show in North America award from Billboard on Thursday, the night before ‘Zarkana’ opened. We are sold out everywhere in Europe right now. We set new all-time-record attendance records in Denmark. It’s the same wherever the show goes in. Last week, we were in Sweden and phenomenal records.

“It’s so big we are extending the tour by at least another year. It means for now, we will run it until the end of 2014 for sure. It’s headed for South America and Asia. Then we’ll return it to America and Europe to a lot of repeat cities where we were very successful and could have had longer engagements.”

I talked with Daniel at Gold Lounge in Aria before the “Zarkana” premiere Friday night. He summed up: “This is a very exciting night. It also is very interesting for us because it is the first time in Las Vegas that we opened an existing show, but all the excitement of a brand new show is here.

“The sound is a huge change from New York. It is much bolder here. The one thing that we had underestimated is how well the music, the set, fits in the Aria theater. This is pure luck because it was not planned that way.

“When I walked in the theater with Guy 10 days ago, he was overwhelmed. That is rare because Guy is very, very severe about the content of our shows, but when he felt, heard and saw the ultra-sound and everything else, he was really, really pleased.”

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.

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