Cirque du Soleil presents Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour
by Alexis and Tyra McFadden
For those of us fortunate enough to have seen Michael Jackson perform live, it is safe to say it was an unforgettable experience. Those who were not able to witness his brilliance live, Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson–the Immortal World Tour stage show at the Colonial Life Arena promises to be the next best thing.
Immortal World Tour’s spokesperson Max Charbonneau says the show is “part rock concert and part theater,” and incorporates all eras of Michael’s music from the Jackson Five debut to his later solo career.
In keeping with this month’s theme, Charbonneau, provided behind-the-scenes insight into how the performers keep fit physically and mentally in order to bring us this magnificent spectacle paying homage to the greatest performer to ever live.
How many performers are touring with the Immortal show?
There are 65 performers varying in age from 19 through age 40. There are 30 dancers, 20 acrobats, and 12 musicians.
The travel demands for this show must be a challenge. What is the daily routine of the performers?
The company usually spends two to three days in each city we play. Usually our artists have a day off between every city to sleep and recover, hit the gym, work on their art or to just have some fun. Our acrobats often find a local gym to work out an hour or two, and of course we take time for choreography and technical work. On show days the performers arrive at the venue around four to test apparatus and perform sound checks before the doors open at seven.
Is there a special diet or nutritional routine specifically designed for the health of the performing artists?
There are 175 artists to feed so we have caterers that travel with the show and they provide great food with many options and everything that is served is approved through our headquarters in Montreal. A variety of dishes are served up so there is something for everyone, including those with specific religious dietary concerns. There are steak and chicken options, as well as fish, veggies, and fresh fruits. Of course, there are lots of delicious desserts served as well. In fact the food is so good that some of us have gained weight since being on the road!
Are there ever any exhaustion or muscle fatigue concerns for the performers?
Most of our performers have lots of on-the-road experience having toured with Brittany Spears, Rhianna, and Janet Jackson, so they know what to expect performing 5 shows per week on average with Immortal. To assist the performers in maintaining maximum health we have artistic directors, two acrobatic coaches, two physical therapists, and two dance coaches traveling with the company. So, the performers are able to work out frequently, take movement and flexibility classes, and receive therapeutic massages.
Our performers are really healthy and have been performing in this capacity for several years, so they are real aware of their bodies and know how to take care of their instruments. This is to the advantage of a production of this kind because with 65 artists on the show, we do not have backups or under studies. Usually if someone has an injury serious enough to sideline them for a few shows, the numbers are modified by the choreographers to work around any injuries.
Even if you have seen other Cirque shows, Immortal is said to be the largest and most amazing one yet. The creators have taken great care in maintaining the integrity of Michael Jackson’s artistry, from his music, his stage wear, to his trademark signature dance moves–with an added gymnastics element. The Immortal World Tour is all in the spirit remembrance and celebration of the great and gifted artistry of Michael Jackson.
Many of the musicians on the show are former members from Michael’s tour bands over the years. Greg Phillinganes, who was musical director on many of his road shows, takes the same role on the Immortal World Tour. Several of the choreographers working with the Cirque show, such as Travis Payne, worked closely with Michael and helped to create many of his short films.
Charbonneau palpably describes the show with barely contained enthusiasm, saying things like, “it’s like nothing we have ever seen.” If a seasoned professional such as he is that excited, then this is a must-see event this April 27-28 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.