In death, Michael Jackson King of Popping Back Up


Michael Jackson is having an amazing week for a dead guy.

Jackson not only released a new album, “Xscape,” on Tuesday but will “perform” in two Las Vegas venues Sunday. Quite a feat for someone who never did a solo concert in Las Vegas while he was alive.

A video illusion of the superstar will make its usual appearance in two Sunday shows of “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay. Across the street at the MGM Grand Garden, Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards cryptically promise “a Michael Jackson world premiere experience,” one that will make “television history” and show the star “like you’ve never seen him before.”

Unless that turns out to be “alive,” we’ll find out Sunday if this surprise lives up to the hype or to Cirque’s technology. The visual in “One” is said to be a variation of a projection illusion dating back to 1862 known as a Pepper’s Ghost. Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride is probably the most familiar use of it, though Celine Dion also uses a version at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

Cirque’s “One” illusion is the subject of a California lawsuit filed in March, claiming Cirque infringed on patents by Musion Eyeliner, which brought Tupac Shakur back to the Coachella music festival in 2012.

It seems the race against dead Las Vegas superstars isn’t just to see whether Elvis or Michael Jackson gets to be the “Legends in Concert” closer. The real bragging rights are for which is the biggest earner.

A lengthy Billboard magazine piece explains how producer L.A. Reid created the new Jackson album by commissioning new music to match vocal tracks from unfinished songs. But writer Joe Levy also gives Cirque du Soleil (along with the concert film “This Is It”) credit for erasing the Jackson estate’s $500 million debt at the time of his death in 2009.

The first Cirque tribute, “The Immortal,” is said to be the ninth-most-grossing tour of all time, with $355 million and counting and no sign of coming off the road.

The acrobats sure can hold up to the rigors of travel longer than U2 or the Rolling Stones. The arena show that played Mandalay Bay Events Center in December 2011 swings back as close as Salt Lake City in July.

As “One” inches up to the May 23 anniversary of its debut (the “official” opening was in late June), Cirque officials say it’s too early to talk about putting any “Xscape” songs into the show. But showgoers will hear the album playing in the lobby. …

Comedian Whitney Cummings is the focus of a “special announcement” Thursday at The Venetian. She already lists two Venetian engagements on her website — Aug. 15-16 and Nov. 28-29 — after a Comedy Central special in June. Stay tuned to see if the news conference reveals a bigger project or commitment. …

Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me” is proving naysayers (and live-singing advocates) wrong by adding shows through February on top of the ones previously announced at Planet Hollywood. Tickets for the new dates go on sale Friday.

Spears still has a two-year commitment to Planet Hollywood but is adding dates to the minimum number of shows for those two years. So much for questions about her work ethic (especially since “Vegas throat” isn’t much of an issue) or the ability to sell about 4,200 seats for each date.

A news release claims every show so far has sold out. Back in September, I called the original agreement for 48 shows per year “modest” compared with 60 for Shania Twain and 70 for Celine Dion in a similar-sized venue. …

This weekend in North Hollywood, Calif., Debbie Reynolds auctions more of her movie memorabilia collection, which used to be on display in the Las Vegas boutique hotel now called The Clarion.

But producer Ray Wolf continues to operate two show venues in the tiny property. He tells me that after Monday’s show, the vocal tribute “Shades of Sinatra” takes a break from three years there to spend the summer on the road.

The “Shades” berth in the larger 350-seat theater will be taken over by magician Reynold Alexander from May 23 through July 20, a season that tends to be good for magicians and slower for singers of standards. …

Hot off the press: Entertainer and TV host Tony Sacca’s autobiography, which he will sign for you at 4 p.m. Saturday after taping his “Las Vegas Rocks Variety Show” at 2 p.m. at the Plaza. We can find out then how they fit the subtitle on the cover: “A 50 Year Journey from the City of Brotherly Love to the Entertainment Capital of the World.” …

Finally, this column already had one call back to December 2011 and “The Immortal” tour. But that month also was the last time Barry Manilow performed on the Strip.

From the Better Late Than Never department, a “Live from Paris Las Vegas” DVD was released Tuesday. The running time of the DVD is listed at only 66 minutes though, and even Las Vegas shows aren’t that short.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.