LOS ANGELES -- So, maybe "Michael Jackson's This Is It" wasn't quite it after all?
The performer's estate and Cirque du Soleil announced plans Wednesday for a Jackson-themed touring production, "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour," that is set to open in Montreal next October. The arena tour, which combines the performer's choreography and music with the Quebecois circus troupe's signature acrobatics, otherworldly staging and aerial dancing, will travel to 27 cities across North America.
The writer-director of "The Immortal World Tour," Jamie King, served as Madonna's creative director for the last dozen years, overseeing such projects as her 2008 "Sticky & Sweet" tour. King previously worked with the King of Pop as a backup dancer for Jackson for two years on his 1992-93 Dangerous world tour.
According to King, the new show references every stage of Jackson's career, combining pop spectacle with the esoteric, theatrical qualities associated with such Cirque du Soleil shows as "O," "Ka" and "Zumanity."
"From the moonwalk to the iconic choreography we've seen in 'Thriller' and 'Beat It' and 'Bad' -- all his mini-movies and music videos -- mix that with the world of Cirque," King said in an interview. "You shake it and can literally turn it on its head. Imagine taking the moonwalk to new levels, to new heights. Being able to do the moonwalk literally as if you're on the moon, all the way around the arena."
Unlike such Las Vegas-based Cirque du Soleil productions as "Love" (a successful joint venture between the troupe and the Beatles' Apple Corps that re-imagines the Fab Four's music within circus-based artistry) and "Viva Elvis" (a Cirque show developed in conjunction with Elvis Presley Enterprises that launched this year), co-executor of the Jackson estate John Branca pointed out that the initial idea with "The Immortal World Tour" was to "bring Michael to the fans" and create the feeling of his concerts in an arena setting.
"Cirque has not done a show with Elvis or the Beatles or any other historic rock 'n' roll icon that has gone into arenas and toured North America or the world," Branca said. "Ultimately, there will be a separate show residing permanently in Las Vegas. That show is a couple of years off."
The announcement for "The Immortal World Tour" arrives just days after Forbes magazine named Jackson No. 1 on its Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list, after the singer posthumously raked in $275 million in 2010.
Executors of Jackson's estate have not always been on the same page, legally speaking, as the performer's immediate family. Jackson's father, Joe, unsuccessfully sued to challenge co-executors Branca and John McClain's administration of the singer's assets. But according to Branca, the pop icon's mother, Katherine, was on board with lending her son's music and choreography to the joint production that will split all profits 50-50 between Cirque du Soleil and the Jackson estate.
"Michael was a big fan of Cirque and visited their offices in Montreal," said Branca. "When we came to announce (the tour), we came to Mrs. Jackson; she was delighted and thrilled because she and Michael's children are all Cirque fans."
"All these ideas start from Michael," King said. "He always wanted to do things for his fans that were the biggest, the best, the newest and the most unheard of. I now have the opportunity and challenge to do that for him."