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Author Topic: Review of IMMORTAL from positivelymichael.com (Spoiler Alert)  (Read 1890 times)

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Offline moonstreet

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Review of IMMORTAL from positivelymichael.com (Spoiler Alert)
« on: September 17, 2011, 06:45:42 PM »

I just got back from the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour rehearsal in Montreal. Yes, seriously. No, I can't believe it either.

I haven't really slept in 3 days and am kind of delirious but I couldn't wait to start telling you all about it. So here is a totally un-edited, off-the-cuff, extremely long retelling of events. Please not that this is DRIPPING WET WITH SPOILERS. SO MANY SPOILERS. Please do not read if you don't want to know what happens in the show because I'm basically about to tell you everything.

After I get some sleep, I'm going to post the rest (I'm only about 1/3 through) and polish it all up a bit. Then I will post a spoiler-free review.

Until then, excuse my typos and enjoy:

PositivelyMichael Does Immortal World Tour Rehearsal. Part I.

Standing in line at the Canadian customs, I panicked over how I would answer the mandatory “Why are you travelling into this country?” question. I heard the one woman explain she was having surgery. And the couple in front of me claimed to be visiting family. Now, if I was going to be entirely truthful, as one should with customs officials, I would have said “Well......I’m going to watch a Cirque du Soleil rehearsal and then tour the Cirque campus and meet Michael Jackson’s estate executor and his designer and his musicians and a bunch of leaders of different fan clubs. So....”

I made a game-time decision and chose to keep it simple: “I’m visiting friends.” (Hey, it was true!)

The truth is, even I did not believe the reality of the situation. I arrived at my hotel in Montreal around 9am and went immediately to sleep. I hadn’t slept at all the night before and I was determined not to be the first person in the history of the universe to fall asleep during a Cirque du Soleil show. A couple hours later, I was awake again and walking to the Bell Centre with other fan leaders and the Estate’s representatives, known as MJ Online Team.When I first walked into the arena where the performance was being rehearsed, I was struck by how drab it all seemed. I suppose I was expecting to see dancers rehearsing furiously in full costume and acrobats jumping off the walls and musicians recklessly jamming away. But there didn’t seem to be any of that. There were people sitting around, people walking around, and a LOT of people on computers. But not before long, signs of Michael started emerging everywhere. One dancer palling around with friends busted out a class spin, illuminating the white fringe on his costume into a neon rainbow, and landing on his tiptoes. There was a model hot air balloon in the corner with a large, animated doll inside that looked disarmingly like a 10-year old MJ. And every once in a while, the screen would flash with a familiar image, be it Michael shooting hoops with Michael Jordan or the J5 cartoon. The operative term here being “every once in a while.”

Technical difficulties. It seems all those many men were standing around the computers because a server was malfunctioning and the videos were not displaying. So the rehearsal was delayed 10 minutes. Then another 10 minutes. Then 30 minutes. At this point, MJ Online Team graciously took our group upstairs to the cafeteria to stretch our legs and get a drink.

Walking through the Bell Centre cafeteria doorway, the first thing you notice are all of the hockey posters (who knew Canadians liked hockey?). Then all of the shirtless male dancers, Then you notice Zaldy. Yes, THAT Zaldy. He seemed as surprised to see us as we were to see him. He came over for quick introductions before he was called away. I was surprised to see him there. I had assumed they would just have the designers do their work and move on, but seeing him around rehearsals weeks before opening shows how committed the entire team is to the big picture.

We returned to the arena more excited than ever to see show. But we were in for another wait. However, this time, there were many special guests dropping by to keep us on the edge of our seats. The Talauega Brothers, favored choreographers, warned us to keep tissues close at hand and admitted to tearing up themselves during previous rehearsals. They emphasized the community of passion in the arena: from the fan leaders’ perennial dedication to Michael to the performers love of their craft, the Talauega Brothers consider it all to be the same. Next to stop by was Kevin Antunes. We were told that Kevin did most of the mixing for the Cirque show, In that Kevin deserves infinite props- the music could not have been more engaging and creative. Michael’s voice is brought out from the music and amplified over the instrumentation in a way that showcases his unique, often overlooked, vocal talent. Estate Executor John Branca and his paralegal/Estate consultant/Michael’s close friend Karen Langford were just seats away from us the whole time. When he became obvious that the show was finally about the begin, they came over multiple times to explain why the show wasn’t going to be at 100%, two of the biggest reasons being the main character (a mime) was injured and the videos still weren’t working perfectly.

But the show must go on and, finally, it did. I didn’t take notes during the show, and honestly, I’m still processing it all. So what will follow is the best highlight reel I can offer as of now (I’m very confident I have a lot of this in the wrong order.) We were told that we were not going to see the very beginning or the very end, so the piece that opened the show for us will not be the real opener. A single man stood on stage in a white shirt, white pants, and a sparkly white hat. He began to do some incredible miming, looking lost and somber, until “Do you remember the time.... remember the time...” begins echoing throughout the arena. A graphic of Michael has been spray-painted on the wall behind him and he appears to move backward in time as he is sucked toward the image. We’re moving back in time with the mime, back to Michael and Neverland. Annnnnd 60 seconds into the show, my eyes are already welled up and my hand is locked over my mouth to prevent against any potential wailing.

The Neverland gates appear, complete with the gold statues of playing children that decorated the property. The mime, who represents the spirit of Michael and Neverland, sits among the statues, bringing them to life to the emotional swells of “Childhood.” I thought putting “Childhood,” not known as a unanimous favorite, first was a very bold move and it paid off by encouraging the audience to watch the show through a child’s eyes and with an open mind and heart. Next, we heard wild screaming as a bunch of neon pink, green, and purple painted “natives” rushed the stage. Their hair was styled in an obvious shout out to Jennifer Batten’s legendary HIStory Tour bouffant. Drums pounded wildly as the dancers thrashed around the stage while “Mama-se mama-sa ma-ma-coo-sa” emerged from the tracking, turning “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” on it’s head as a primal celebration song. Already, there were too many things happening on stage for me to take in. There was a large Giving Tree that remained in the center of the stage for all acts revolving around Neverland. This tree was used by the artists for all imaginable purposes: climbing, jumping off of, flipping on to, hanging on to, hiding in, etc. The circus has indeed begun and I was ready to start somethin’.

I believe what came next was another set of hootin’ n’ hollerin’ to the tune of “Ease on Down the Road.” Five guys dressed in “I LOVE MJ” shirts and surgical masks, and aviator-adorned pants (yes, you read that write) jumped onto stage carrying suitcases, a boombox, and signs pointing to Neverland. This crew started fighting over which song to listen to, as 5-second pieces of a handful of Michael’s gems got some air-time. This motley crew, operating as the fanatics who want more than anything to get into Neverland (sound familiar?) often act as the comic relief of the show and jump to distract from set changes. It’s important to note that this show is SEAMLESS. There is never a dull moment and you are never waiting for the next thing to happen because something awesome is always happening. Anyway, the fanatics eventually agree to dance to “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”, taking pictures of each other and the crowd along their way to Neverland gate. At this point they knock, no one answers, and then they get scared away by something.

I want to slap myself because I forget what they got scared away by. I’m going to start going really out of order here. At some point, an extremely sexy female electric cellist gets on stage alone and does some of the most amazing electric cello playing that I’ve ever seen. The end of her bit turns into the begining of “Heartbreak Hotel.” The whole stage turned into a scene straight out of Michael’s imagineering for the “Smooth Criminal” short film. Flappers dancing with Dapper Dan’s, getting lifted into the air on a wire (I may forget to mention it, but it is safe to assume that there is someone in the air for almost all of these songs.) A voice comes in, warning over a dangerous criminal on the loose. Four men begin walking up these tall, tall skinny poles that mimc street lamps. At the top, they strap themselves to the pole and take out papers as the voice continues describing the criminal, seemingly investigating the matter. Meanwhile, they are swinging wildly back and forth. From these tall skinny poles, they are almost hitting right angles. It terrified me from my seat. A sheer drape had dropped behind them and when it rose again, “Smooth Criminal” hit and about 15 of the smoothest criminals hit the stage. They were wearing a twist of Michael’s classic suit: dark blue with black stripes. This was a huge number with great energy and stayed pretty faithful to the original.

As one scene closes, you hear a train chugging toward you with an intense beat behind it. For a few seconds, I had no idea where it was going as a crew of metallic orange-clad people tied to different apparatuses emerged. Then the beat became more familiar until “Dancing.... dancing... danciiiinnngggg.... she’s a dancing machiiiine!” And indeed, they were dancing machines all over the stage. Ballerinas twirled on levers. Men with extremely impressive upper body strength hung from the ceiling. Robots were being manipulated. And tap dancers kept the beat. “Dancing Machine” is probably my favorite remixed song, at least in the top three. All of the sudden, the dancing machines start to malfunction. Sparks fly as the machines crumble to the ground. What is going on here!?!?! Then a spotlight shines on the control booth, revealing that BUBBLES (or a-human-who-has-so-convincingly-mastered-the-art-of-acting-like-a-money-it-is-almost-scary) has taken over the controls and is cackling as he is breaking everything! The mime, who has been on the stage almost this whole time, animating each group with his presence, adoringly scolds Bubbles as they play and hold hands. Then, BEN. “Ben” like you have never heard before! “Ben” as a marching band anthem of inter-species affection with drums that make you want to cry and hug your pets for the rest of your life. During this performance, the mime and Bubbles dance along huge dancing elephants (Gypsy!). The coordination it takes to make this two-person elephant costume work is unfathomable for me but executed perfectly. This song is “Dancing Machine’s” competition for favorite remix and, as John Branca explained, it is likely going to be a children’s favorite. Anyway, mark that in the books as cry #2.

« Last Edit: February 23, 2013, 03:54:03 PM by moonstreet »