Sunday, 25 August 2013

Missing the King of Pop

Who's Bad? Michael Jackson-like dancers "walking" on the building
We are beginning to wonder if Cirque du Soleil has lost its magic touch.

This afternoon we were given free tickets to watch Michael Jackson The Immortal held at AsiaWorld-Expo and though we had really good seats on the right side close to the stage, we had to wonder, is that it?

People in the entertainment industry here say this show is the weakest in Cirque du Soleil's repertoire and it's not hard to see why.

Dancing with some strange acrobatics in between
Michael Jackson was a singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer, producer. His music videos are controlled images and sequences that are danced with perfection. He did not want ordinary, average or mediocre. He always created something different, each music video with slightly different dance moves that made us clamouring for more.

And so putting a show together featuring Jackson's music and dancing mixed with some acrobatics in between is a tall order. How do you go one better than the King of Pop?

Or where the producers daunted by the thought or overwhelmed by the material and weren't quite sure what to do? Or it seemed a good idea at the time?

Dressed as mummies for the "Thriller" sequence
In the end the show is a compilation of Jackson's songs strung together... with footage of him from when he was young up until the 2000s. But they are not linked in any logical fashion, making it hard to follow. There is no particular storyline, with perhaps one character, a tall hip hop dancer dressed in silver white who appears in almost every act.

The show is also broadcast on large screens on either side of the stage and in some aspects it's better to watch it on the screen than live because there are some special effects, or in some cases it looked better than the angle where we sat.

As a show comprised mostly of dancing, the choreography isn't too creative or complicated, which made us wonder throughout the show -- would MJ approve of this?
The pole dancer showing off her moves

A few of the acts worked -- an aerial pair doing classic Cirque du Soleil acrobatic moves, and then towards the end, the energetic group of dancers unfortunately in tacky colourful tracksuits but then had stripes and hats that glowed in the dark.

There was also a contortionist dressed in a green suit with a devilish smile who crept out of a giant book and did some amazing moves on it. Gives another meaning to a bookworm.

Meanwhile the pole dancer was quite amazing, strutting out there in barely anything and doing some pretty cool moves including splits along the pole -- but some criticized that she had no stage presence. However one of the dancers was disabled -- with one leg -- but managed to dance up a storm with crutches.

In the They Don't Care About Us song, the photograph of the "tank man" at Tiananmen Square was shown in Beijing earlier and there was a collective gasp in the audience. It was immediately taken out, as producers blamed the Chinese censors for not seeing it, and was not reinserted back in Hong Kong. Little do the producers know you can show this kind of stuff in Hong Kong, but not China. Kind of disappointing...

At one point in the show, they play on Jackson's words were shown on the screen:

In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope.

In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort.

In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream.

And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.

Classic MJ dance moves before they turn off the lights
When I saw the second last line, I couldn't help but immediately thing of Chinese President Xi Jinping's "Chinese Dream". Putting it in Jackson's context, it makes China seem like a depressing situation!

Although we weren't impressed with the show, some die-hard Jackson fans a few rows behind us constantly screaming "Michael!" "Please come back!"

Uh... he's dead... exactly four years and three months ago...

So while the show was created around Jackson, his presence was not felt...

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