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Cirque’s ‘Michael Jackson One’ is a Vegas feast for the senses

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Cirque’s Michael Jackson One pours on the visuals.
Photo: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay is a visual and audio assault. Cirque du Soleil is making a statement here, and it isn’t retelling Jackson’s story in any sort of straight biographical arc. It explodes with fire (during the extravagant, wading-with-zombies “Thriller” scene) and ice (artificial snow drops on the audience during “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”).

Aerial artistry abounds in this show, with performers soaring high while seated in light-illuminated globes. A female vocalist is a recurring character in a skyward, illuminated moon sliver. The great lean-forward moment from “Smooth Criminal” is resurrected not by a single dancer but the entire troupe, numbering more than 20 and performing the move on opened scaffolds and across the front of the stage. A disembodied, sequined glove toys with one of the young dancers clad in an ’80s-styled jacket, and a pair of glowing shoes cut across the stage to mimic Jackson’s famed moonwalk.

In “Billie Jean,” the artists don costumes trimmed in LED lights. The room darkens as those dancers recall the great video for that song, their faces concealed but the moves readily recognizable. The sound system thunders, with more than 7,000 speakers built into the theater’s seats in the same way the music design envelops the audience in Love at the Mirage.

The acrobatic artistry of Cirque is best reflected in the production’s new twists on old props—trampolines and a dancing pole. Trampoline staging is a Cirque hallmark, and in “Thriller” the artists aren’t satisfied with bouncing in sync along a series of tramps; one slams against the bottom of a trampoline set several feet high, then back down fast to another set onstage. The dancing pole is not straight but wavy, and the artist, clad in a fiery red silk costume, is hoisted high above the audience, tethered by cable but seeming about to break free of the scenery.

Jackson himself does appear, in a stunning hologram near the end of the performance. He beams in and out while dancing to “Man in the Mirror,” then morphs into the child star we came to love in the first place. It’s a show to visit for dynamism and happy nostalgia, and a great reason to shake your body down to the ground. In grabbing the gloved hand of Michael Jackson, Cirque got this one right.

Michael Jackson One Saturday-Wednesday, 7 & 10 p.m., $69-$180. Mandalay Bay, 877-632-7400.

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