- Last Updated: 12:08 AM, April 3, 2012
- Posted: 10:32 PM, April 1, 2012
MICHAEL JACKSON: THE IMMORTAL WORLD TOUR
Madison Square Garden, 4 Penn Plaza. 800-745-3000. Through April 5.
There’s a surreal quality to Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour,” which played this weekend at Newark’s Prudential Center, and it’s not just because its inspiration is no longer with us. This lavish show, featuring the company’s trademark spectacular acrobatics and stunning visuals, is not all that different from the theatrical extravaganzas of today’s arena concerts. Except, of course, that the star fails to show up.
But he certainly would have approved of the alternately mind-blowing and silly proceedings. For every element that is sublime — the acrobats in multicolored LED-studded bodysuits cavorting overhead in “Human Nature,” the incredibly sexy female pole dancer who writhes her way through “Dangerous” — there is another that is just wrongheaded, such as the Afro-headed clowns lipsynching Jackson Five songs. And don’t get me started on the performer wearing a monkey suit pretending to be Bubbles the Chimp.
Not surprisingly, much of the show, which moves to Madison Square Garden for three nights starting tomorrow, replicates Jackson’s choreography and visual iconography in ways both slavish and inspired. You can be sure of seeing the dancing graveyard zombies of “Thriller,” the hard-rocking juvenile delinquents of “Beat It,” and the dancers leaning at impossible angles to “Smooth Criminal.”
Far more imaginative is the treatment given such songs as “Dancing Machine,” featuring a phalanx of industrial-suited tap dancers, and “Beat It,” with performers inhabiting a giant rhinestone glove and pair of loafers.
Diehard fans will be gratified by the inclusion of “They Don’t Care About Us,” a number originally designed for the never-to-be “This Is It” tour. But its robot-suited dancers, who wear LED breastplates flashing images ranging from dollar signs to hearts, aren’t exactly subtle.
The music is presented in suitably deafening mega-mix style, with Jackson’s voice accompanied by a live band led by Jackson’s frequent collaborator, Greg Phillinganes. The large ensemble performs his trademark dance moves with uncanny precision, with one-legged dancer Jean Sok an unforgettable standout.
The singer himself is often seen on giant video screens showing clips of his videos and concert appearances. And here’s the ironic thing: No matter what spectacular event is taking place live in front of you, you still can’t take your eyes off him. Even in death, Michael Jackson steals the show.