I am lucky. I got to see the brand spanking new Michael Jackson One Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas last week.
Most of you who know me, know what a huge fan of MJ I am. Okay, many of you think I’m over-the-top obsessed with him, which is why seeing the One show in Vegas, the epicenter of excess, was so perfect. And, if you didn’t know, and need proof of how obsessed I am, you can read some of my earlier posts on Michael like All Right, I’m Finally Breaking Out The MJ, Calling Michael Jackson, and My MJ Thievery: There Goes The Neighborhood.
I even planned a special outfit for the night of the show: my grandmother, Nanny Frances’s black cocktail dress, my MJ afro-puff earrings, and a purse I hand-painted the famed image of MJ’s on-his-toes black lace-up shoes and sparkle socks. I was good to go…
The MJ One Show, as typical of Cirque de Soleil, weaves a story into an exhilarating montage of music, dance, acrobatics and aerial routines.
And, as the black filament-thin curtains projecting floating images of Michael’s trademark glove, shoes, and sparkly socks opened, I wondered out of the vast catalog of songs that Michael produced, what songs would they choose, and what story would they tell through Michael’s music?
Starting with paparazzi figures dressed in red overcoats crowding around unsuspecting audience members, giant tabloid newspaper headlines of Michael’s bizarre exploits and accusations of child molestation plastered on all sides of the stage, and the song “Somebody’s Watching Me” blaring, it was clear our journey was to begin with MJ’s persecution by the media, and the price of his celebrity.
The show moves on to other message-themed MJ songs, like The Earth Song, and They Don’t Care About Us, mixed with classics like The Way You Make Me Feel, Smooth Criminal and Thriller. At the core of our journey on stage amongst all the dancers and acrobats, were four “lost” teens, two young women and two young men, seemingly all trying to find their confidence, their identity, their artistic uniqueness. As the audience we followed them, at times feeling like we were in Neverland, at times like we were on the Yellow Brick Road of Oz, as each member gained courage and the freedom to express themselves through the magic of finding one of Michael’s treasured objects–his shoes, his glove, his sunglasses, and his fedora.
Of course, all of this wasn’t as crystal clear in my head when I was watching the performance. It was only discussing it with my friend Gary afterward, that we could cut through the buzz of all that was going on around us. One moment we’re watching dancers on metal scaffolding moving to Bad, the next, we’re looking up in the ceiling and yes, the sides of the walls, as aerial dancers on ropes and invisible cord, outlined only by the white lights on their costumes walk up the wall at a 90 degree angle and spin graceful loops of light overhead to Human Nature. And, then we’re back to MJ’s long-locked blond guitar player strumming to Dirty Diana and a red-haired aerial temptress who descends from the ceiling to perform a most amazing feats-of-strength pole dance. And, on and on.
Friends asked if there was an MJ impersonator in the show, and I’m glad there was no attempt to do that. There was a young man, dressed in black and a fedora who danced in several brief interludes, including Billie Jean, but he did not do the famed MJ Motown anniversary performance. Instead he did an interpretation all his own, a gliding moonwalk more in the style of dancer, ‘Lil Buck’s jookin,’ a ballet-like street dance that originated in Tennessee.
What threw me for a loop though, aside from another part of the show that I won’t mention because I don’t want to be a spoiler, was a throwback video image of Michael inside a gilt frame as a 10-year old boy–afro, brown skin, his own real nose that he was born with, singing I’ll Be There. It hit me that that’s the Michael, the one from age 10 up til’ his third nose-job in the 80’s, is the one I have stuck in my mind and in my heart, the one I can’t let go of, the one that made my heart melt and made me believe that he knew how I felt about him when I was too was just 10 years old and believed one day we’d meet and marry.
It was at this point in the show that I had to admit to myself I came to the show because of the fantasy in my head and my heart that I’ve held onto for so many years. Like Michael, I don’t want to grow up, and I don’t want the Michael I knew and loved to be gone from this world. I want to maintain the innocent melt my bones crush I had on that talented lanky afro-haired, cute as a button nose, velvet-voiced, dancing machine, shy Michael. I still “Never Can Say Goodbye” to that Michael. Seeing the MJ One Cirque de Soleil show gave me my MJ back, if even for a short, too few, magical hours.
P.S. Wendy Jane Soul Shake readers will be pleased to know the finale song for the show was Black and White. It was exhilarating to have all the performers up on stage and dancing in the aisles with audience members, all of us up on our feet moving to Michael’s music, believing his message, feeling his joy.