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Cirque du Soleil plans Michael Jackson show with 3-D and holograms

You don’t see The Beatles in "Love," but Michael Jackson might be part of his own tribute show when Cirque du Soleil brings it to the Strip in late 2012.

Cirque officials say holograms or 3-D effects might have you ducking when the late superstar goes into that moonwalk or lets his gloved hand fly in the joint production announced Tuesday by Cirque and Jackson’s estate.

"Technology is evolving at a very rapid pace. We hope that between now and 2012, when we open the show, technology will be even more sophisticated, that people will have the feeling Michael is onstage," said Cirque President Daniel Lamarre.

"We’ve been talking a lot … about the fact that Michael Jackson was always ahead of his time. It’s important with this show that we’re going to be ahead of our time," Lamarre said. "We are talking to a lot of people that can bring new technologies to the table."

Because Jackson performed on an epic scale, "the expectations of the fans are so huge we will have no choice but to deliver. As much as a show like ‘Ka’ created a big wow, we would need in terms of technology to be able to deliver at that (level of) technological experience they’re used to seeing with Michael Jackson."

A Jackson tribute had long been rumored as Cirque’s next in Las Vegas. Lamarre said he and Jackson estate co-executor John Branca had a handshake deal in December.

But Tuesday’s announcement did come with two surprises: It did not say which casino will host the new production, and it outlined plans for two separate products.

A touring arena show will pave the way for the permanent installation.

The tour will have its U.S. debut in Las Vegas in the late fall of 2011, perhaps after a shakedown run in Canada, and will be "more like a simulation of a Michael Jackson (concert)," Lamarre said.

It will tour North America for a year while Cirque readies the more theatrical and technologically complex permanent installation. Once that show opens, the touring version would move overseas — and stay there.

"Michael is so popular outside the United States we think there is a potential for us to tour many years around the world with that show," Lamarre said.

Estate co-executor Branca said the tour probably would not incorporate ideas or material from the concerts Jackson planned to perform in London last year. Rehearsal footage was salvaged for the theatrical feature "This Is It."

"We think that stands on its own and we’re looking to create something new here," Branca said.

Mandalay Bay has been the most-rumored location for the sit-down version. The timetable would give Disney’s "The Lion King" at least another year to run. Disney representatives did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Lamarre did say the new show would not replace an existing Cirque title such as "Criss Angel: Believe," "Zumanity" or "Ka."

"We’re looking at two or three different (venue) possibilities that are going to be dictated by which one will suit better the technology that we’re looking for and obviously the availability," he said. "We will have to do some major changes wherever we end up."

Jackson was a fan of Las Vegas entertainment and Cirque. Lamarre said the star toured the company’s Montreal headquarters in 2004. "We’d been flirting off and on sporadically."

In 2008, comeback scenarios — with and without Jackson as a performer — centered around the Las Vegas Hilton because owner Colony Capital also rescued Jackson’s California estate from foreclosure.

Tuesday’s announcement said the partners also would pursue "special lifestyle projects" such as a nightclub or restaurant.

Branca did not dismiss previous reports of a museum attraction featuring items from Jackson’s Neverland estate. "It’s certainly a possibility," he said.

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

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