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Michael Jackson lives on with “The Immortal World Tour” by Cirque du Soleil

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Michael Jackson: "The Immortal World Tour" by Cirque du Soleil opened to chants of “Michael! Michael!” The near sell-out crowd at Power Balance Pavilion on Tuesday night sat almost breathless through two hours of a show that had the feel of a Michael Jackson concert, but with the incredible performances for which Cirque du Soleil has become revered.

An awe-inspiring collection of contortionists, acrobats and dancers from around the world took the stage in this moving tribute to an artist whose music, moves and iconic image will forever define pop music, with a soundtrack that spanned Michael Jackson’s incredible career.

The show easily transitioned from a thrilling rendition of “Wanna Be Starting Something,” with dancers and acrobats careening across the stage in tribal wear, to the tender “Ben,” a tribute to Jackson’s love of animals, with performers in elephant costumes swaying gently to the ballad.

The backdrop was formed by a compilation of screens that flashed images from Jackson’s music videos and appearances, along with photos of the artist and a live video feed of the show.

Jackson’s tragic death in 2009 left his fans stunned and saddened, just three weeks from the start of his “This Is It” tour. For enthusiasts of the late artist, the show brings in elements from the ill-fated tour, including a reenactment of a routine that features soldiers in robot suits dancing to “They Don’t Really Care About Us” and an impressive array of musicians who worked with Jackson throughout his career.

The first act ended with “Thriller,” and the stage filled with dozens of performers in a foggy graveyard scene that revived the famous moves of the King of Pop. There were times when it seemed that Michael Jackson himself would appear on stage.

In the “Human Nature” performance, artists in multicolored LED costumes were suspended in front of a backdrop of the night sky and appeared to float and fly as a 3D image of a young Michael Jackson, perched on a crescent moon, hovered above the stage behind a sheer curtain.

One of the most impressive performances came from Jean Sok, a French amputee whose break dancing was featured throughout the show – including the incredible way he manipulated a basketball with his only foot.

For some, the most memorable performance may have been that of Australian Felix Cane, whose scantily clad pole dance to “Dangerous” was received in awed silence by the crowd.

Following a video of young Michael Jackson singing “I’ll Be There,” the grand finale was a multi-cultural blend of dance, acrobatics and music, with a melange of some of Jackson’s most famous songs. And as the performers took their bows to “Man in the Mirror,” the mime who lead led us through the journey to Neverland Ranch, shed his cap to don a fedora and single silver sequined glove, striking the pose Jackson immortalized – head tilted down and one arm raised in salute.

The overwhelming theme of the show was Jackson’s passion for social and humanitarian causes, and his voice narrated parts of the show.

Casual fans of the artist may not receive “The Immortal World Tour” as well as other Cirque du Soleil shows, as the focus is definitely on the music and dancers rather than the acrobats and contortionists.

The show runs in Sacramento for just two nights, and tickets are still available for the second show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Cirque du Soleil’s “The Immortal World Tour” heads next to the Bay Area, performing in San Jose this Friday through Sunday and in Oakland from Jan. 17-18.


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