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Michael Jackson latest to get 'Cirque' treatment

Cirque du Soleil's new show is based on the music of Michael Jackson.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Cirque du Soleil's new show is based on the music of Michael Jackson.

"Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" made its U.S. debut Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, only a handful of miles away from the old Motown Records headquarters where Jackson got his start as a member of The Jackson 5.

As previous shows have done with the music of The Beatles and Elvis Presley, the two-hour Jackson-themed performance is designed to give audience members the flair and showmanship of Cirque coupled with the flair and showmanship of the late artist in concert.

"Michael was a performer that was not just music. He was dance. He was cinema. He had a humanitarian side," said Kevin Antunes, the "Immortal" show's musical designer. "So, you can take all of that and put it all into the show. That's where I think the difference is."

The eye-popping, high-wire acrobatics and elaborate costuming that are a hallmark of any Cirque show are of course present, but there are a multitude of Jackson-specific touches.

Oversized versions of his signature accessories — glove and penny loafers — come to life during a rocking version of "Beat It," and airborne performers wearing LED suits light up the darkened arena to the strains of "Human Nature."

Jackson's best-known and loved dance moves are all there, too.

The Cirque performers do the patented "Smooth Criminal" lean-forward during a noir, gangster-themed segment, and the first half of the show concludes with a rousing performance of "Thriller," which features the famous zombie boogie from the video in a Cirqued-up graveyard.

And of course, the moonwalk is represented, not only on stage, but on the massive video screens behind it, where footage of the man himself is displayed throughout the show.

In Detroit, Jackson's likeness drew a hearty ovation the first time it appeared. One woman loudly squealed: "We love you, Michael!"