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October 30, 2014

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‘Michael Jackson One’ photos: Backstage, interviews, premiere and afterparty

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Prince Jackson and his grandmother, Katherine Jackson, arrive at the red carpet for Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay on Saturday, June 29, 2013.

'Michael Jackson One': Red Carpet

Marlon, Jackie and Tito Jackson arrive at the red carpet for Cirque du Soleil's Launch slideshow »

Michael Jackson One red carpet at Mandalay Bay

Neil Patrick Harris at Michael Jackson One

Jamie King on Michael Jackson One

Backstage at 'Michael Jackson One' at Mandalay Bay

Backstage with writer-director Jamie King and Welby Altidor, director of creation, at Cirque du Soleil's Launch slideshow »

Backstage at Michael Jackson One

Welby Altidor on Michael Jackson One

The verdict is unanimous: Brilliant! Fantastic! Phenomenal! Even Justin Bieber, in town for a concert Friday night at MGM Grand, watched the world premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay on Saturday night and said: “The show reminded us that he was the greatest that ever did it. Incredible!”

Emails and tweets I received were nothing but praise for Cirque’s eighth production on the Strip and raves for director and writer Jamie King. “Outstanding! Ten times better than Jamie’s ‘Immortal’ arena show, and we didn’t think they could beat that,” one top Las Vegas producer texted me.

Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., Cirque officials, agents from CAA in Hollywood, Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary and Justin’s manager Scooter Braun told Jamie’s agents Tony Selznick and Julie McDonald and manager Daniel Sladek: “The ultimate show. The absolute best. Impossible to top.”

On the red carpet, Cirque President Daniel Lamarre told me: “It will run for 20 years like our first Las Vegas show, ‘Mystere.’ We are celebrating its 20th soon. ‘Michael Jackson One’ is already boosting ticket sales at other Cirque shows on the Strip. People come to see this, and then they want to see all the other shows. This will play, Robin, long after we are both gone. It will make Michael a hero all over again to people growing up now who never heard of him.”

Mandalay Bay President Chuck Bowling added: “This is absolutely wonderful for Las Vegas. It will make us an even bigger destination for people around the world. Ticket sales, hotel and convention bookings are great. I have never seen anything like its halo effect in all my years being in the hospitality business. The show is so fantastic, I think it could be here forever.”

The celebrities on the red carpet included Michael’s mother Katherine Jackson; his sons Prince and Blanket (daughter Paris, recuperating from a hospital stay, remained in L.A.); his brothers Jackie, Marlon and Tito; Neil Patrick Harris; Spike Lee; David Arquette; Allison Janney; Ryan Kwanten; Alfre Woodard; Roberto Cavalli; Pharrell Williams; Dot Jones; Rex Lee; Ian Ziering; Ricardo Laguna; Jon Secada; D.J. Ashba; Tom Higgenson; Richard MacDonald; Robert Griffin III; Carrot Top; Jeff Beacher; the Jabbawockeez; Clint Holmes; Human Nature; and Justin Mortelliti, Mark Shunock and Carrie St. Louis of “Rock of Ages.”

Neil summed up what many of the stars felt:

This entirely new show is the second creative project between Cirque and the Estate of Michael Jackson after the top-grossing “Michael Jackson — The Immortal World Tour,” currently playing arenas in Asia. It also is Jamie’s second Michael-Cirque production.

My review from the first night of previews was posted May 24. Jamie; Welby Altidor, director of creation; and their crew tweaked, polished and tightened it and added video, laser and sound effects. I asked Jamie how he made it better when it was already at its best and how he made two different shows out of the same superstar and his music.

Jamie and Welby’s team — Kevin Antunes, musical director; Jonathan Deans, sound designer; Zaldy Goco, costume designer; Nathalie Gagne, makeup designer; and choreographers Ivan “Flipz” Velez and Rich and Tone Talauega — deserve credit for the masterpiece of theatrical genius with its cast of 63 energetic dancers, athletes, acrobats and performers. You’re immersed in the production as they work above, behind and alongside you in the theater as well as onstage.

The state-of-the-art surround-sound environment is riveting. You hear Michael as you’ve never heard him before in song and speech. The ever-appearing and disappearing hologram of Michael is awesome.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning Sunday morning’s shocking news of Cirque’s first fatality in its 30-year history. “Ka” acrobat Sarah Guyard-Guillot, 31, died Saturday night at MGM Grand while Cirque execs were celebrating the success of “MJ One.” In the final fight scene, she fell more than 50 feet into a pit when a wire holding her on the vertical wall snapped. Our condolences to her family, especially her two children, ages 8 and 5, and the Cirque family. “Ka” shows have been canceled until further notice.

Just hours before the premiere, I took a two-hour backstage tour as final preparations were underway for “MJ One.” I talked with Zaldy, watched rock guitar muse Gina Gleason in makeup and saw musical director Kevin’s sophisticated sound booth.

Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his red carpet and backstage photo galleries and Richard Corey for his videos posted on YouTube. I also interviewed Welby about Michael’s guiding influence.

A white-summer-chic party was held at Mandalay Bay Beach after the two VIP shows. MGM Resorts restaurants showcased food, including chef Akira Back’s restaurant Kumi opening at Mandalay Bay this month. Grammy winner Pharrell took the stage after midnight and performed his biggest hits, including his current No. 1 collaboration “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke. Partygoers danced into the early hours despite temperatures still reading 100-plus degrees.

“MJ One” is definitely Cirque’s best show ever. The King of Pop would have been thrilled to have watched it or starred in it. His creative genius endures.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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  1. I saw this show May 23. It's the best show i've seen in my life, i'm only 20. Cirque du soleil did a wonderful job. Rip MJ!

  2. Thank you, Robin. I saw the show Friday night. It was, as you said, brilliant. There was such a creative energy to the show I could hardly keep up trying to take everything in. And then, of course, there was the music. The unparalleled and exquisite genius of Michael's music. I saw you at the Red Carpet the next night. Just want to say thank you for your support of Michael and positive words through the years.

    He would have been so happy and so proud of this show. I'm glad the family was there in his stead...

  3. Amazing how many folks in one family can make a career out of making a living off one of their own.

    I would rather disappear into a lessor mediocrity of my own making rather than occupy a small fame stolen from another.