After time, tinkering, opening night arrives for ‘Michael Jackson One’

Standing onstage to introduce a May 7 press preview of “Michael Jackson One,” co-directors Jamie King and Welby Altidor kept repeating “June 29,” almost like a mantra to reassure themselves there was still time.

But no more. Saturday finally brings the “official” opening night of Cirque du Soleil’s eighth Las Vegas opus, even though the show has been running at full ticket price since May 23.

While most of us old media types agreed to honor the tradition of previews (if all goes to plan, my review will be posted online Sunday), all the red-carpet hoopla may seem after the fact in the social media era of fans posting “spoilers” and informal reviews.

Good thing then, that Altidor said the show was “very much ready” to begin with, and did not require the major surgery “Zumanity” and “Criss Angel: Believe” needed during their preview weeks.

“We really worked hard to try to deliver a show that was close to ready for the soft opening, instead of a soft-opening period where we continued to do a lot of work on the show,” Altidor said this past week.

Though he said it will be up to others to judge, “we’re proud to have perhaps established a new standard in terms of preparedness for an opening.”

Unlike other resident Cirque productions created from scratch, this one had the touring arena show “The Immortal” as a learning curve for what Michael Jackson fans expect from “One.”

And, as Altidor said with an apparently straight face over the phone, “The music was already composed.”

Since May 23, a smaller creative team has polished technical details such as video syncing and choreography. But Altidor hopes that on a less tangible level, Saturday’s audiences will pick up on “the passion you feel from the artist, how they own the stage so they are able to connect with the audience,” now that they are used to a nightly schedule.

Some early birds have dropped “spoilers” about an illusion that brings Jackson into the action. Like all Cirque productions, Altidor said this one won’t stop evolving after Saturday’s party night and may still bring new “creative ways to represent (Jackson’s) image.”

“Would we have loved to use smoke and create a shape of his face with it? Of course,” he said. “But certainly within the time frame that we had, I think we’re really happy with what we managed to accomplish.”

With blistering temperatures, perhaps record highs, predicted for Saturday, staging the opening-night bash outdoors at Mandalay Beach could find many of the guests, who are asked to wear “black or white beach chic,” wading into the water. Cirque will accordingly offer a “shoe check” and issue flip-flops. …

Despite the catchy name, there was no guarantee the band Elvis Monroe was going to develop a Las Vegas following.

Even Ben Carey, who heads the country-flavored Americana band, recognizes the unlikeliness of it.

“Every month we’re going to come (from Los Angeles) and play original songs to people who may not have heard us before,” he said of the monthly gig that began in September at Red Rock Resort.

It helps that Carey usually plays guitar for Lifehouse, while bandmates Ryan MacMillan and David Pichette have been part of Matchbox Twenty and Emerson Drive. Still, none of them were the founding, or most famous members of those groups.

Nonetheless, Elvis Monroe has made enough fans playing Red Rock the last Thursday of each month that starting Friday, they will stick around and play a second night across town in Sunset Station’s Club Madrid, at 8 p.m.

Carey believes the band’s popularity comes less from the resumes of its players than the good will it cultivates, making the audience feel like it has been let in on a well-kept secret.

“You’re dealing with real people that really do love their fans and love playing music together,” he said. “When people feel like they discover something special on their own, rather than having something forced down their throat, that way I win real fans.” …

Louie Anderson has turned his search for an opening act into a social media promotion.

The comedian begins his new residency at the Plaza on July 10, and said his new downtown home is “such a great stage, I feel like it should be used.”

So instead of another stand-up comic, he’s looking for a singer or variety act such as an impressionist to open the show.

Fans can upload videos of 15 seconds or less to Instagram video using the hashtag #open4louie, or upload to YouTube and send him a link on Twitter or his official website. …

Sunday marks 10 years since the death of comedian Buddy Hackett, a longtime Las Vegan during his years of anchoring the Sahara’s entertainment lineup.

Hackett’s daughter Lisa — a Nevadan married to cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell — marks the 10 years by creating a new cyberspace presence for her dad. The website buddyhackett.tv offers new, previously rare concerts and TV shows on DVD.

Watch them, and if someone on Sunday says to you, “You can keep the duck,” you’ll know why.

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

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