McLain and Lamarre told Pollstar their first priorities are a pair of completely different shows. The first will be an arena show that will tour the country beginning in the fall of 2011 and the second a permanent Las Vegas production that will open sometime in 2012.
Besides the requisite CDs, DVDs and branded merchandise that will accompany both shows, other plans on the drawing board include a restaurant and nightclub in Vegas and a project sure to excite aspiring moonwalkers out there – a competition TV show to discover fresh talent to help create both Jackson productions.
“The other thing we’re talking about is a television show to find the next great choreographer and dancers for the show,” McClain explained. “We feel we’re going to end up using three choreographers – two established ones and then use the TV show to find the next great genius choreographer out there on the streets doing dance the way that no one else is doing it. Then we’ll bring them onto the team along with the best dancers in the world that we find.
“In terms of established choreographers, we’re going to look and bring in the best out there – maybe someone who’s worked with Michael or maybe somebody new. We love Kenny Ortega. He did a wonderful job helping to create the ‘This Is It’ show and the movie, but I believe that Kenny’s now committed to direct some movies. So unfortunately, we may have to look in another direction.”
As for what form the Vegas restaurant/nightclub might take, don’t expect a King of Pop version of Planet Hollywood or the Rainforest Café. Cirque’s Lamarre promised fans are in for a completely unique experience.
“We at Cirque always try to reinvent stuff,” Lamarre said. “Our creative people don’t like to repeat things that have been done in the past. The good news here is that the people from Michael Jackson’s estate think the same way. We have to push the envelope.
“We’re at the preliminary stages right now, so it’s hard to define what the form and shape of those projects will be. But again, we have to push the boundaries of creativity and the boundaries of technology because in today’s world people are used to experiencing something special. That’s the challenge we have right now.”
So what can fans expect when they plunk down their pennies for a ticket to the first joint Cirque du Soliel/Michael Jackson production? According to Lamarre, they’d better hang on to their glittery socks.
“The arena show, I don’t know yet where it will start in Vegas, but it will be in one of the arenas at the MGM Mirage,” the Cirque Chief said. “The show will tour in North America for a year. It will be kind of a simulation of a Michael Jackson touring show.
“The other show in Las Vegas will be more of an experience. We want the theatre to be state-of-the-art technology-wise and we want to use new technologies such as holograms and 3D. Those are avenues that our R&D department is exploring right now in partnership with other organizations. We’re talking to three or four of them right now that are interested in stepping up to the table to work with us. Because we want this to be a breakthrough in terms of technology.”
As for what form The King of Pop’s music might take for both of these shows and who might be called upon to guide it, that’s going to be a totally new experience too. The singer’s catalog will most likely be transformed as radically as the music of The Beatles was for “Love,” according to McClain and Lamarre – but in a different way.
“We’re certainly going to use Michael’s recordings,” he explained. “We may do mash-ups of them and present them in a way that hasn’t been heard before. We’ll certainly do that for the permanent show. Whether we supplement that with a live band or not is something we still have to decide.”
“First in terms of the show, it has to be very, very different from ‘Love’ or any other Cirque show,” Lamarre continued. “Here, technologically, there is a huge challenge, but in terms of the artistic content, the material of Michael Jackson is so different and so huge it’s giving us an amazing springboard of creativity. In terms of the music itself – I’ll let John comment – but it’s very clear to all of us that John McClain himself will play a major role in supervising all the musical aspects of Michael Jackson.”
“Absolutely,” McClain concurred. “We don’t know if it will be Quincy [Jones]. Quincy had a major impact on Michael’s life, but he’s enjoying life. So whether it’s Quincy or Bruce Swedien or Giles Martin or somebody brand new, we haven’t decided on that yet.”
So what about some of the famous musicians who’ve also worked with Michael over the years, like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Stevens or even the latest – Orianthi? Will any of them be involved in either show?
“Very possibly,” McClain said. “Greg Phillinganes … there are a number of people.”
Besides Jackson’s solo work, which includes record-breaking releases like Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, will the public be hearing a much younger Michael, say with the Jackson 5? More than likely McClain explained, adding “That was an important part of Michael’s life.”
And all of those yet-unheard masterpieces by The King of Pop that have been lying around on studio shelves? Will any of that figure in the new projects? Again, McClain thinks it’s conceivable.
“It’s possible. The first album of unreleased material is going to be released in November. We’ll make a determination, but very possibly some of that material could be used.”
Here’s some good news for Michael Jackson fans around the world: No need to despair or begin selling your possessions so you can get over here to see the new show – it’ll be in your neck of the woods sooner than you think.
“It will be touring for many years around the world, I think,” Lamarre said. “Because the demand is huge outside of North America. That’s one of the main reasons we’re doing a touring show.”
And finally, could a permanent Cirque du Soliel/Michael Jackson show pop up in someplace like – oh, let’s say China?
“There is nothing confirmed as we speak, nothing in discussion,” Lamarre said. “But it might happen.”