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November 17, 2017

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Exclusive: ‘Immortal’ resident show to open May 2013; director, designer in place


Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. The world premiere of Immortal was in Montreal, the location of Cirque headquarters, on Oct. 2, 2011.

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Michael Jackson: Immortal

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Cee-Lo Green with performers at Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" on Dec. 10, 2011.

'Immortal' Red Carpet at Mandalay Bay

Blanket Jackson, Paris Jackson, Prince Jackson and friends at the Launch slideshow »

Michael Jackson: Immortal

Celebrities and fans alike are turning out in force for Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour,” and now for the second consecutive week since opening at Mandalay Bay Events Center, it’s at the top of the charts. Since its tour began in Montreal in October, it has accumulated nearly $100 million in ticket sales.

Pollstar reports that “Immortal” has become the highest-grossing live show in the country, and the figures are staggering, with nearly $2 million in tickets sold for each night of its run here through Dec. 27.

Pollstar says that’s an incredible $500,000-plus more than Taylor Swift, who is the next highest-earning touring show, and she plays larger arenas in different cities nightly, whereas “Immortal” is fixed here at 8,500 seats for two more weeks.

As Vegas DeLuxe reported Sunday, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and his radiantly expectant wife Beyonce were at “Immortal” with superstar musician Cee-Lo Green close by, as was “Modern Family” 21st birthday girl Sarah Hyland.

Now I’m learning the plans for Cirque’s new residency Michael Jackson show at Mandalay Bay:

*Opening date is set: Cirque founder and billionaire Guy Laliberte, here last week for his first look at the show in Las Vegas, and Mandalay Bay President Chuck Bowling have set May 13, 2013, as the opening date for the permanent show.

*Plans are underway: Cirque President Daniel Lamarre has confirmed to me that planning for the residency show is underway, and it began the day after “Immortal” opened at Mandalay Bay. When Disney’s “The Lion King” departs Dec. 30, Cirque construction crews will begin dismantling the venue to prepare for the one-year makeover starting Jan. 2.

*Jamie King signs on: It’s now confirmed that touring show author, chief choreographer and Director Jamie King has been signed to a new contract to mastermind the residency production. Extraordinary costume director Zaldy Goco, who designed the “Immortal” wardrobe, also will repeat his genius for the new show. Our five-part interview series about “Immortal” included my interviews with Jamie and Zaldy.

*Michael Jackson museum: Michael Jackson Estate executor attorney John Branca has told me that a museum honoring the King of Pop will be part of the residency show’s attractions with some of the Neverland memorabilia from the Michael Jackson Fan Fest on display. Reliable sources indicate that the Neverland gates and giving tree will be an entranceway to the new theater.

*Michael Jackson nightlife: An interactive arcade with Michael Jackson games will be featured. Plans for a nightclub attraction haven’t yet been finalized and might not, but Cirque has partnered with the Light Group to take over the currently shuttered Rum Jungle at Mandalay Bay to open with a new entertainment concept in fall 2012. Light Group, now a part of Morgans Hotel Group, opens the nightclub 1OAK at the Mirage with Fergie on New Year’s Eve.

Jamie flew here four days before the touring show opened to make changes to the production that I first saw at its world premiere in Montreal.

“Ideas have changed, developed and grown. When it’s a touring show, things change because of the nature of the venues, but when you mount a show in one place, it has to be venue specific. I certainly had to adapt to the Mandalay Bay site. So there have been different ideas, certainly. It’s the same show, but certain aspects are now given more prominence. We don’t do anything without Guy’s stamp of approval, and he finally gave us that when the show reached Vancouver.”

Michael Jackson: Immortal

2011 Michael Jackson Fan Fest at Mandalay Bay

The Michael Jackson Fan Fest is at Mandalay Bay from Dec. 3-14, 2011. Launch slideshow »

'Immortal' Red Carpet at Mandalay Bay

Blanket Jackson, Paris Jackson, Prince Jackson and friends at the Launch slideshow »

I talked with Jamie about him signing on the dotted line for the new show before it became official. “I would love the opportunity to do that show. We would need to start on it immediately. Tomorrow! It’s going to be at the Mandalay Bay Theater, so we have to trick out the room and the way to get to the theater. I look forward to the challenge 100 percent.

“It would be a 100 percent different show -- you would know that -- but I would say there would be certain elements from this touring show that would be incorporated -- our favorite moments from this show would definitely be in there. There are some beautiful moments, and I’d like to carry them over. It would be far more theatrical like a Cirque show than a rock arena show.”

The Michael Jackson Fan Fest that ends Wednesday has been a major success with its 200 items of Neverland memorabilia on display. Some of the pieces in the multimillion-dollar exhibit will be used in the residency show and museum. The collection after Wednesday won’t be seen again until possibly Michael’s next Aug. 29 birthday remembrance and then May 2013 when the new production opens.

Fan Fest includes some of designer Zaldy’s unfinished works that Michael was rehearsing in for the This Is It concert run in London’s 02 Arena that was canceled when he died two days before flying there. Ten of the outfits were Zaldy’s for the 50 U.K. performances. This was the first time that the Estate executors approved a showing of Michael’s collections, and since arriving here, the items have been under day-and-night surveillance.

“It gives fans the opportunity to see things that were very important and very personal to Michael that had never been seen before. We wanted to choose items that the fans wanted to see and we knew that Michael would want to share with them,” a Fan Fest executive said.

“There are items in here that I’d never seen before or even knew Michael had,” his brother Jackie Jackson told me. “But I know Michael would have wanted to share them with his fans.

“We, as a family, are proud and happy that ‘Immortal’ is successful, and the fans love it. It takes Michael’s message to an even wider audience around the world, and we know the next residency show in Vegas will be an even bigger success keeping his legacy alive and teaching that peace and love are the most important of all.”

After the Las Vegas run ends Dec. 27, “Immortal” opens in Phoenix on Dec. 30. It then criss-crosses the nation from Boise to Boston and Los Angeles to Long Island, plus three return engagements in Canada through an Aug. 21 date in Salt Lake City. New dates and international venues are still being scheduled, and Cirque estimates that its debut touring juggernaut show will run five years in North America and the rest of the world, with bookings already set for Europe and Asia.

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.

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