Las Vegas used to be monotheistic, embracing the Church of Elvis. But Michael Jackson is the new deity in town.
You can wonder why the Strip’s quasireligious figures stem from fatally addicted humans. But you can’t deny each rose from the dead.
Court filings reveal Jackson’s estate has grossed $475 million since he died in 2009. A lot of that was raked in by Cirque du Soleil, which partnered with the estate for “The Immortal” arena tour.
Cirque opens its new “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay on Thursday. Some might find it icky timing with a wrongful death trial going on in Los Angeles.
And there are new allegations of child sexual abuse from choreographer Wade Robson, who worked for Cirque in the original version of “Criss Angel Believe.”
But twice I sat through celebrity impressions last week — at “Legends in Concert” and “Tribute Royalty” — that drove home how cleanly death has separated Jackson’s legacy as a performer from the flawed human discussed in courtrooms.
Damian Brantley’s Jackson in “Legends” seems more celebratory, and less creepy, than it was in 2005, when Jackson was on trial for sexual abuse.
Just as Jumpsuit Elvis gradually grew a halo to oversee drive-thru chapel weddings, Mystical Michael’s powers continue to grow postmortem.
In court, collaborators remembered Jackson saying “God keeps talking to me” in the days before his death.
Now he’s the one doing the talking. “One” is described as “four misfits” on a “transformative adventure,” imbued with “Michael’s agility, courage, playfulness and love.”
“In this show Michael is our guide. I would say he’s kind of our Obi-Wan Kenobe, and he’s the one who’s really anointing, gifting different objects to the characters,” says Welby Altidor, the show’s director of creation.
“We wanted to play on this playful idea. What would happen if you would get the shoes of Michael? What if Michael himself gives you those shoes? As a kid I would imagine this would give me those really special properties, special powers.”
We build our heroes up to tear them down, and youngsters who grew up staring at the “Thriller” album cover went on to see Jackson become an endless source of tabloid mockery.
But if the legacy is to outlive the man, Cirque is trying to remember the good parts.
“The overriding theme, it’s a Michael theme, which is about togetherness and one. We are one,” director Jamie King says.
Good message from a spirit guide. Even a flawed one.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.