ENTERTAINMENT: Cirque's Jackson tour docks in December 2011

Cirque du Soleil’s touring Michael Jackson tribute — now officially known as “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour” — will pull up at the Mandalay Bay Events Center for nine arena shows in December 2011, after visiting nine Canadian and four U.S. cities next fall.

You can plan ahead by buying tickets starting Saturday for the Dec. 3-11, 2011, shows at Mandalay Bay.

Las Vegas was originally announced as the U.S. launch of Cirque’s two-fold Jackson tribute: the arena tour, followed a year later by a permanent installation at a still-unnamed theater venue on the Strip.

The arena tour will be written and directed by Jamie King, who has staged tours for most of the A-list pop stars, from Celine Dion — in her post-Las Vegas world tour — to Madonna, Britney Spears and even Jackson himself.

A lesser resume credit for King was “Storm,” a production show that opened at Mandalay Bay in April 2001 and closed in July 2002, after proving a box-office disappointment.

Cirque’s announcement included this description of the 60-performer show: “The Immortal World Tour takes place in a fantastical realm where we discover Michael’s inspirational Giving Tree — the wellspring of his creativity. The secrets of Michael’s inner world are unlocked — his love of music and dance, fairy tale and magic, and the fragile beauty of nature.”

The tour launches in Montreal on Oct. 2. Jackson’s hometown of Detroit will be the first U.S. city to see the production on Oct. 15.

The tour lands at Mandalay Bay at the end of its first leg, during a month when Las Vegas is typically light on tourism beyond the National Finals Rodeo. However, other resident Cirque titles usually take long breaks in December, and the “Immortal” schedule leaves room on the back end for additional shows to be added.

“We’ll put the first ones on sale and see how it goes,” Cirque spokesman Lou D’Angeli said Wednesday.