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When the crowd cheered and the audience applauded Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony at “Q’Viva! (The Chosen)” at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday night, nobody was happier than the unseen third star who never made it to the stage for the standing ovations. Director and choreographer Jamie King sat behind the sound and lighting control boards to watch his one-night show come to life.
It took a four-year dream, jet hopping across 21 Latin American countries and 90 minutes of stage time to present the spectacular. “We wish we could do more, but to get the cast here, from the 21 countries with over 50 people in the cast, it’s expensive, “ Jamie told me in a backstage interview moments after the curtain came down.
“We also have Jennifer and Marc in the show, and to keep it going is a very costly thing. But if people demand it, want it, we will bring it. This was like our baby project. It was about getting to this point and finding this amazing talent -- and it’s one night only. Here we go -- let’s go for it! We got the show we wanted, but now what do we do? We don’t know yet if we do it again next season and how we would do it. Latin American music, song and dance really took off, so let’s hope and pray for the best. We’d really like to do it again, and we had such a great time doing it.”
I can exclusively reveal that because of its weekend success, producers , promoters and Mandalay Bay executives Monday, on the holiday, began a preliminary round of meetings to find a way to produce “The Chosen” as a new Strip residency show. It would be trimmed in scope and size for a theater instead of the arena and have a rotating list of guest stars and acts.
A top exec confirmed to me: “Everybody wants a Vegas show, everybody now wants it to happen.” Even the legendary Stevie Nicks who was in the audience gently interrupted my chat with Jamie to congratulate him and insist that the show should become a Las Vegas fixture.
The project began four years ago when Jamie worked with Simon Fuller on The Spice Girls tour. It was Simon’s leadership, Jamie’s creative vision and J.Lo and Marc’s commitment to the passion of Latin music that brought it all together, with more than 30 million TV viewers and as a live show -- so far.
“All of a sudden, Las Vegas is a new home for me,” Jamie laughed. “It’s weird that it’s always happening at Mandalay, my good luck charm. But “Q’Viva!” is really about the passion Jennifer, Marc and I have for the music. We were on the road there 2 1/2 months and then six weeks shooting the show in Los Angeles, then rehearsals to put this show together. I didn’t have a lot of time with the winning finalists. Actually, I had the least amount of time I’ve ever had on a show -- just a matter of weeks.
“I learned that thousands auditioned via YouTube and other social Internet networks and were cut down to 200 to be flown to Los Angeles. One hundred were cut in the first 24 hours in California and sent back home. The remaining 100 spent six weeks on a work campus in East L.A. before being trimmed down to the final 52 to then build the live show.
“It became one of the most important things I’ve done in my life. I think in terms of the heart and what the message is for this show, it’s the most important. We really were passionate about finding these great talents and mentoring them, cultivating their talent and making them stars so that 8,000 people could watch them at Mandalay Bay. It was a very heartfelt project for all of us.
“They may go back to the jungle or the barrio now. They have this Vegas experience under their belt, and it is really up to them to see what they do with it. We have given them a platform, an opportunity, and maybe people who saw it tonight will pick up on them and there will be some exchanges there. We hope for that. I would love for this show to go on and on and on forever.
“Maybe we could find it a Vegas home, wouldn’t that be great? It was based on doing it one night only, but I think this show deserves a home in Vegas. Seeing the crowd reaction, Latin people and Americans really, really understood the show, the premise and the context of the heart, the passion, the soul, the fiery energy that is Latin American culture. The energy was extraordinary.
“It worked so well because music and dance is its own international language without speech or words. I think that’s how many cultures communicate. I think in Africa and throughout Latin America, it is a way of celebrating. It is also a way of meditating. It can be used to soothe, it can be used to promote, it can be used to ignite, and it can be used in a festive way. So, I think that music and dance and celebration and artistry on this level really crosses all boundaries, and people feel something when it is done right.”
I told Jamie that the dancers, drummers, musicians, singers and acrobats blew me away. Their routines and colorful costumes would be showstoppers on “Dancing With the Stars.” “They are incredible,” Jamie agreed. “This is authenticity. They are from Argentina or from Chile or from Guatemala, so we got the real thing, and that’s what the audience felt.”
SECOND MICHAEL JACKSON SHOW
Jamie is now working on Cirque du Soleil’s second Michael Jackson show, which becomes a resident attraction at Mandalay Bay one year from now. (Jamie directed the first, “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour,” which had its world premiere at Cirque headquarters in Montreal last fall and was at Mandalay for much of December.) He talked candidly with me about the new show’s progress.
”That will be a different feel completely, altogether. I am already excited, but not yet confident. I’ll get there, though. Right now, I’m just excited. I am excited about being here at Mandalay Bay and doing the theatrical version of Michael’s show. I’ve already walked the theater. It’s under construction, but for now it looks a mess. It has much potential, and I am excited for the future.
“There is no official name yet for the show, so it’s just the Michael Jackson 2013 show. We are in pre-production now, and at the end of September, early October, I’ll be relocating to Montreal for about three to four months. I’ll stay there through the holidays, and then we’ll all come to Vegas. I will live here for a while.
“It will be completely different from the ‘Immortal’ show -- completely. This will be a theater show, not an arena production. The entire 90-plus minutes will be different from what you experienced with the touring show. I’ve done a whole new concept and theme. It involves many more characters and acrobatics. It will be much more fantastical and theatrical, with less arena rock ’n’ roll. However, you will get as much of Michael Jackson’s music as we had in the touring show. I’ve kept some magical moments from the touring show I felt could translate here -- some bits and bobs, as you’d say!
“I had to create something new, though, because the touring show will go on for a long, long time overseas while we have the permanent show here. I’ve sort of shot my self in the foot by having two shows for Michael Jackson, and both must be different -- and they will be.”
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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