MONTREAL (Reuters) - Michael Jackson’s music, moves and imagination live again in Cirque du Soleil’s new show “The Immortal World Tour” which opened in Montreal to screams, cries and a standing ovation on Sunday ahead of a 10-month North American tour.
Set to the central image of a “Giving Tree,” — a 300-year-old oak tree at Jackson’s former Neverland Ranch home where he used to find peace and inspiration — dancers bring the “Thriller” singer’s signature moves and outfits to life.
Sparkling aerialists fly through images of galaxies in the universe to the pulsing sounds of some 70 hits, rewinding back to the King of Pop’s days as a child star with the Jackson Five.
Jackson’s mother Katherine, his three children Prince, Paris and Prince Michael II (Blanket), along with several of his brothers attended Sunday’s world premiere of the $60 million production. It is one of the biggest projects authorized by the executors of the singer’s estate.
“I think it was important not only for the Cirque but our fans to see that we support this as well and that we want to make sure that they capture what our brother was about, and they did that,” Marlon Jackson told reporters, in the company of brothers Tito and Jackie.
“I think the reason the legacy is so strong is because we started so young,” he added. “Michael went out and did his own thing and even grew it bigger.”
Jackson, 50, who died in Los Angeles in June 2009, was a fan of Cirque du Soleil and went to the Canadian entertainment group’s first U.S. tent show in 1987, said John Branca, one of the executors of his estate.
“Michael was very excited to meet the performers and they were very excited to meet him, “ Branca said. “There’s a lot of love and passion for Michael in this show”.
Jackson’s lead vocals drive “Immortal”. His voice comes directly from his master recordings, but the band is live and the music is heard in surround sound.
“I think the songs chose themselves, based on the stories,” said musical designer Kevin Antunes ahead of Sunday’s premiere.
The original tracks have been re-imagined for the show and will be released as an album in November, Epic Records said on Monday.
The Cirque show opened in the midst of the criminal trial in Los Angeles over the singer’s death.
Dr. Conrad Murray — Jackson’s personal physician as he prepared for a series of planned comeback concerts — denies involuntary manslaughter. His attorneys claim that the singer caused his own death by sneaking himself an extra dose of the anesthetic propofol to help him sleep.
Some 64 international performers take part in the “Immortal” show, directed by Jamie King, who made his debut as a dancer in Jackson’s 1992-93 “Dangerous” tour.
Several other members of the creative team — the largest ever assembled by Cirque du Soleil — had worked with Jackson, including musical director Greg Phillinganes and choreographer Travis Payne.
The cast has been rehearsing since the end of spring 2011.
The 219-member crew and the equipment’s 40-truck cavalcade will travel across Canada and the show will have its U.S. premiere on December 3 in Las Vegas, where it will spend three weeks.
The North American “Immortal” tour is due to wrap up in Chicago in July 2012.
Editing by Jill Serjeant and Christine Kearney