Robin Leach's Vegas DeLuxe
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Cirque du Soleil executives confirmed last night that the second and permanent Michael Jackson residency show -- its eighth Strip production -- will open at Mandalay Bay in 2013. The ambitious project has the full blessing and support of the executors of The King of Pop’s estate, and the news confirms the world exclusive VegasDeLuxe.com story revealed here Oct. 20 about the alliance and the two megabucks shows.
It also spells the end of Disney’s beautiful and spectacular The Lion King at Mandalay Bay. Cirque and Mandalay officials will formally announce details next Wednesday in a panel discussion with Jerry Nadal, the senior VP of Cirque’s resident shows division in Las Vegas.
I’m reliably told that The Lion King will cease performances by the end of the year. Currently, tickets are on sale through Sept. 8. Work on reconstructing and redesigning the theater to be renamed in Michael’s honor would begin by next January for the 2013 premiere.
The new “permanent celebration” of Michael’s genius will follow the Immortal world tour rock concert arena show that opens this fall. The two-year global jaunt kicks off in Montreal on Oct. 2 with its world premiere, and then arrives at Mandalay Bay Events Center for a 33-concert schedule Dec. 3-27. Dates to an initial eight-night run were added due to extraordinary ticket demand.
Details will be revealed next week, along with a presentation on the new show by writer, director and choreographer Jamie King, Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre, Mandalay Bay President Chuck Bowling and Michael’s estate executor (and former lawyer) John Branca. VegasDeLuxe.com posted an interview with Jamie last Nov. 10 on the projects and his plans for the touring production.
None of this is new to VegasDeLuxe.com readers, who first learned about the “unparalleled and extensive relationship” of Michael’s estate lawyers, Cirque and Mandalay Bay in our exclusive interview with Daniel. I talked at length with Daniel after the 8,000th performance of Mystere at Phil Ruffin’s Treasure Island last fall. Here’s our conversation about the two new King of Pop shows, plus a few updates.
Robin Leach: Now comes Michael Jackson -- two Michael Jackson shows. The first show is the one coming to Mandalay Bay for a little while before going out on tour.
Daniel Lamarre: I think the arena show will be a good test for us. The first show opens Dec. 15, 2011. The second show will be at the beginning of 2013. The first arena show will globally tour in North America for two years and then as it leaves to go onto Europe and the rest of the world, we will open the permanent show here.
RL: How different will that show be to the arena touring show?
DL: The arena touring show is as close as you can get to a rock concert. Our audiences will have the feeling that Michael Jackson is alive. The permanent show will be much more theatrical. We are looking right now at a lot of new technology that we want to bring into Vegas for the first time.
RL: How far along in the development of both shows are you at this moment?
DL: For the arena show, we are done. The concept exists. It is approved by all parties. Rehearsals started December in Montreal, so we are really there already for the arena show. For the permanent show, we’re still exploring the new technologies that we would like to bring to Vegas. The preliminary concept exists for the theatrical show, but depending on how far we can go with new technologies, that will influence the final concept of the second show.
RL: Now when we talked about that several months ago, I sensed it would be 3D on steroids, where the audience gets inside as the show wraps all around outside them?
DL: Yes, that’s right. We really want to use the newest, latest of breakthrough technologies that have never been seen before or used theatrically before. There are a lot of conversations going on with a lot of different companies to see who can deliver to us the advanced technology that we’re looking for.
RL: Now that the concert show is 100 percent concept completed, is it with a Michael Jackson or without?
DL: Michael Jackson will be there on video, and then again we will bring in technologies that will make it seem that Michael is with us.
RL: But no lookalikes or soundalikes?
DL: People want to see the real Michael, and the real Michael will be very, very present on the unique video. His estate administrators have completely accepted the concept of the show, which is a great relief for us. Not only are we happy they have accepted it, but we’re happy they’re enthusiastic about the concept of the show. It will be a 90-minute show with all of his big hits, over 20 of the bestselling songs. The show will have about 72 artists: dancers, musicians and acrobats.
RL: Anything in this first show that Michael was developing for his London This Is It concerts?
DL: We have some video that was for the London show that will be integrated into the new show.
RL: What will we be amazed by most?
DL: I think the challenge here is to give the feeling to people that Michael is on that stage. We will do everything we can in terms of video and technologies to bring his presence to life.
RL: Did you learn anything from presenting Viva Elvis to tackle the Michael Jackson shows?
DL: If you take Love or Elvis, the challenge is always to be representative of that era. Obviously, Michael is from a different era than Elvis, and we have to make sure that if Michael were onstage, that’s what he would deliver. It will be him as he would be today.”
Daniel also revealed some of the details of Immortal.
DL: We have two shows a night to sell out for two months at 8,000 seats each performance. That’s the challenge. We’re cutting the number of seats down because we want to keep the proximity for the audience to the stage. This is going to be just like a real rock and roll tour. Dozens of trucks -- well over 30 -- with staging and equipment will arrive in Las Vegas exactly as it will be when we go off around the world. Two years touring in North America and then another two years of global capitals. A monumental four-year world tour! It’s a huge challenge -- the largest we have ever undertaken, but we’re very excited about it.
RL: I always have to ask the money questions. What will be the cost of both shows?
DL: We’re talking close to $100 million for the two shows -- that’s just for the production. Then the cost of the theaters for both shows will add another $100 million to $150 million.
We’ll report directly from next week’s presentation for updates to all of the above, plus the breaking news.
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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