Posts Tagged ‘michael jackson


Smooth Criminals: The Songs of Michael Jackson

Smooth Criminals: The Songs of Michael Jackson

Brisbane Powerhouse & Christopher Wayne

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

December 4 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


It’s the music of Michael Jackson but not as we know it.

The odd couple of the entertainment industry, Joel Turner (world champion beat boxer and platinum selling hip hop artist) and Luke Kennedy (The Voice & The Ten Tenors), make a perfect pair on stage in a celebration of the music and the memory of the King of Pop. Who would have thought this unlikely combination would bring any sort of success? Producer, Chris Wayne, that’s who, and together with Turner and Kennedy, his gamble paid off with a single sold-out show at Brisbane Powerhouse during Wonderland, and subsequent talks to take this universally appealing show on the road.


The magic of Smooth Criminals – n.b. there’s no nakedness or actual magic tricks – is a unique take on Michael Jackson’s discography, taking us on a journey through his unenviable life, from boy to man to immortal. It’s not a succession of greatest hits but rather, a poignant and personal account, seen mainly through Kennedy’s eyes, as he shares his encounters with the man’s music, reimagined and thrillingly remixed in collaboration with Turner and talented musos, Michael Manikus and Scotty French.

Smooth Criminals offers to a new generation a truly original take on MJ’s classic pop sound, but it caters to the die-hard fans first.


732a0363Kennedy, front and centre, demands our full attention. He’s as relaxed as we’ve ever seen him, gracious and respectful to the living memory of Michael Jackson, and confident, cute and actually flirtatious, inviting one guest to join him on the edge of the stage as he serenades her. This is a perfectly orchestrated crowd pleasing moment – we might think it’s a gimmick (she’s surely a plant!) – but Kennedy retains an ease that’s impossible to fake. We believe. He has us in the palm of his hand. AND he has this gorgeous Heath Ledger thing going on, as if he’s ready to bound through the tiered seating, singing……


You’re singing it now, aren’t you?


Kennedy emits the same sort of abandon, irresistible. Despite his protestations, he retains a crooner core, but Kennedy boasts a much broader vocal range and emotional spectrum than most, and he has the technical precision to sing just about anything. If you were privy to his Gethsemane several years ago (or anything since, really, let’s face it, even his National Anthem is nothing less than spectacular), you can imagine the power and control rendered behind even the simplest pop song. Yet, he remains humble and grateful.

Ben is a bittersweet treat, and Kennedy brings to it a sense of such simplicity and purity that we might imagine it’s the first time we’ve ever heard it, and for the very youngest audience members, it might be so. How lucky are they?! The Girl is Mine bounces beautifully between the artists, demonstrating an easy camaraderie and a great sense of cheeky comedy.


Smooth Criminal and Dirty Diana delve a little deeper and darker, although not once is there anything that goes into shadowy controversy, nor does there need to be. The crowd is on side from the outset (Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Remember the Time) and we need no reminders of anything other than the genius and the music of the man. The genius of these new arrangements is in Turner’s work, providing depth and soul beneath Kennedy’s vocal line, and on the odd occasion, the perfect harmony as well. The guy can sing. 

The collective energy is palpable during an earth medley, linking Heal the World, We Are the World and Man in the Mirror. (When was the last time you heard these numbers straight up, unparodied, with feeling?). It’s almost an anti-climax to hear the sensitive Gone Too Soon. A bigger, bolder finish would leave this show at Man in the Mirror, and make an encore of Billie Jean, bringing Turner out front too, with both amazing artists wearing one white glove. It seems remiss to keep Turner behind his mixing table, sans iconic symbol. Perhaps that’s as he wished. Let’s hope he wishes for more of the spotlight next time.

With Kennedy’s talent and a natural flair for performance, and Turner’s uncanny vocal and technical ability making each number an exciting and unique immersive musical experience for all ages, these two are not as unlikely a pair as they first appear to be.

Smooth Criminals is a sure hit, a thrilling tribute to Michael Jackson – the man and his music – and if you missed it in 2016 I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before you’ll see it at a venue near you.

Remember The Time from Chris Wayne on Vimeo.


Cirque du Soleil turns Thirty and we welcome new production Totem


Well, this week Cirque turns thirty and next year in April we welcome TOTEM to Brisbane (or see it in Sydney in October)!





On Monday 16 June 2014, Cirque du Soleil officially celebrated its 30th anniversary. This is one of Brisbane’s most loved visiting companies, and has a story to tell like no other. Three decades ago, Cirque du Soleil was the dream of a small community of travelling performers in Quebec, Canada who would do anything to share their love of the circus. The family has grown since then and now includes thousands of dreamers—creators, artists, technicians and workers who toil in the shadows. The dream has become a symbol of Quebec pride, with the international entertainment company having brought 35 large-scale shows to life, 20 of which are still in operation. The company has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries.


You already know one of the Cirque family members – my sister, Analiese, who is currently SM on Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour, which we saw here last year.


Since 1999, Cirque du Soleil has brought seven of their productions to Australia. Adding a new chapter to Australia’s love affair with Cirque in this 30th anniversary year, the Big Top production TOTEM arrives in Sydney on 28 October and will then tour nationally including seasons in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.


It all started in Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town near Quebec City, in Canada.  There, in the early eighties, a band of colourful characters roamed the streets, striding on stilts, juggling, dancing, breathing fire, and playing music.  They were Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul (the Baie-Saint-Paul Stiltwalkers), a street theatre group founded by Gilles Ste-Croix.  The townsfolk were impressed and intrigued by the young performers, which included Guy Laliberté who became the founder of Cirque du Soleil.


The troupe went on to found Le Club des talons hauts (the High Heels Club), which began to attract attention, and Guy Laliberté, Gilles Ste-Croix and their cronies began to cherish a crazy dream: to create a Quebec circus and take the troupe travelling around the world.




In 1984, Quebec City was celebrating the 450th anniversary of Canada’s discovery by Jacques Cartier, and they needed a show that would carry the festivities out across the province. Guy Laliberté presented a proposal for a show called Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun), and succeeded in convincing the organisers. And Cirque du Soleil hasn’t stopped since!





BRISBANE – TOTEM will open on April 10 2015 at Northshore Hamilton, Brisbane






Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil


Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil 

The Estate of Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil

Brisbane Entertainment Centre

2 – 6 October 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


After the show I spoke with one of the Artistic Directors, Neela Vadivel, who was more than happy to address my tricky questions about The Estate’s take on Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil. Neela, bright as a button at 11pm when I was teetering and Poppy had already crashed, told me that there are only two Michael Jackson shows in the world that have been approved by The Estate, “and we have them both.” Cirque is super proud to bring the first of their two MJ shows to the world (the second show, Michael Jackson One by Cirque du Soleil, is up and running in Las Vegas. It’s a little more “Cirque”. Expect to see it here…eventually), and there’s a bit of a reverent ambience backstage; there is – quite rightly – an enormous amount of respect amongst these ranks for MJ.




Five “super fans”, The Fanatics, open the show – they’re the MJ lookalikes who appear in lieu of the clowns we love to see at a Cirque show – and they create a giant mural of Michael Jackson before we are suddenly taken into the world of Neverland and MJ’s Neverland Zoo. I’ve had some fascinating conversations with people about this show, and on more than one occasion I’ve been very glad my memory hasn’t failed me. Just in case the naysayers were right and I was wrong, I did some reading. You can check the facts for yourself here, but I think it’s important to note that MJ didn’t spend all his money on theme park rides, exotic jungle creatures and keepers. In fact, he donated to many charities, and founded or contributed to more good causes than most. Despite this show coming across as a bit of a myth-making effort, there is merit in its messages of hope, compassion and peace, which we get full-pelt in Act Two, just in case we missed them earlier. So more on that later.


The IMMORTAL band, led by Darrell Smith, whose handshake is as impressively strong as his musicianship, play over tracks that have been created especially for the show, allowing the musos (a number of whom, including Smith, and also the drummer, John “Sugarfoot” Moffett, are Michael Jackson’s original band members), allowing us to hear the familiar original eighties and nineties beats beneath a fuller, richer band sound with additional backing vocals sung live by Fred White and Stevvi Alexander. If you’re not a Michael Jackson fan, you’ll still love the live concert sound, louder than anything I’ve ever heard at Boondall, the bass reverberating beneath us, and most of the audience on their feet well before the end of the show.


My favourite segments, largely due to the clever combination of dance and aerial, showcasing MJ’s famed choreography and Cirque’s renowned acrobatics, comprised This Place Hotel, Smooth Criminal and Dangerous. The Pole Dancer, Guest artist Anna Melnikova, is without doubt the best pole dancer I’ve seen, her strength and grace defying gravity, her confidence and supreme skill daring the women around me in the Grandstand to keep watching just as the men do, in total awe; it’s the admiration she is due. Also impressive in their superior skill sets are Guest Artists Luba Kazantseva and Hampus Jansson (Aerial Silks) and Baaska Enkhbaatar (Contortionist, eliciting similar gasps and wide eyes from some of the women sitting near me).




Now, let me mention The Mime. He gets a special credit in the press list, unlike the lighting guys – it’s Mansour Abdessadok – but I didn’t find his role particularly effective, more a distraction, interrupting what would otherwise be beautifully smooth transitions from one segment to the next. (The spectacular lighting alone could move us from one number to the next!). Dressed in silver-white street attire, The Mime represents all things urban and MJ, channelling the spirit of Michael Jackson and performing a beatbox number that others may have better appreciation for. The concept is fine – I can see how it would have worked at the butchers paper/whiteboard/round table stage but it fails to capture my imagination as much as other aspects of the production.


Thriller is a winner with the audience, with its iconic choreography combined with the leaps and bounds of the acrobats, and Beat It adds some humour to the evening with a giant glove and a pair of penny loafers magically coming to life. But the real magic of this number is the cellist, Mariko, another artist who we were privileged to meet backstage, and though tiny she may be in real life, on stage she is a dazzling superwoman, rocking her electric cello in a one-legged sparkling hot pants suit! I am in awe of Mariko and also, with the other best casting job of the show, the awesome lead guitarist, Desiree Bassett.


After Interval the environmental messages come thick and fast, followed by the political; we get some real Cirque action with a perfectly synchronised team of aerial dancers, which leads into a reenactment of a sequence from MJ’s THIS IS IT tour; it’s a gridiron army of soldiers with LED breastplates in case we miss the message in the lyrics: THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT US. I tell Poppy to take her eyes away from the multiple screens, which are flickering with violent, desperate images, and instead, try to focus on the dancers themselves. What is that symbol? A dollar sign. And that one? Peace. Even the seven year old gets it. If you’re taking a little friend, this segment may be challenging. The following sequence may be challenging also, depending on your emotional state, and your love and admiration for MJ. It’s a bit of a tearjerker. As Michael Jackson’s voice and image gives us his original rendition of I’ll Be There, artists come from every direction to make their way through the audience holding glowing red hearts. By this time I’m looking forward to a little more iconic dance and I’m not disappointed.




The Mega Mix comprises Can You Feel It, Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, Billie Jean and Black or White, again utilising many wires and showcasing Cirque’s superb acrobatic and aerial skills. The LED costumes featured here, and elsewhere throughout the show are pretty special, and we took a closer look at them with Nate after the show. It’s technology created for Cirque by Cirque and it’s continuously evolving, with the latest models featuring inserts so, for example, wardrobe can take care of the sweaty, grubby gloves while techs can fix any LED issues at the same time. The batteries are also Cirque-made and we saw an entire packing case on charge, such are the numbers required to power the many costumes in IMMORTAL!




IMMORTAL ends with Man In the Mirror, in a celebration of the “legacy of an immortal” and despite there being more to this story, this production is a big, hearty chunk of it; it’s a broad collection of the happiest chapters of what I still believe, ultimately, to be a very sad story about an individual who felt the need to re-create himself and in the process, got a good way along the road to changing the world. As far as mythmakers go The Estate of Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil just rose to the top.


IMMORTAL must finish in Brisbane on Sunday.



Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil – a chat with my sister the sm


She ran away to join the circus…again!


Analiese Long. Image by Ricky Morant.


My family is pretty cool, and Analiese is just one of my younger siblings who is living the dream. This is Ana’s fourth Cirque du Soleil show. Previously, she has worked as Stage Manager on Dralion, Saltimbanco and Ovo.


Next up for this multi-talented, multi-tasking mum of three from Eumundi, is Cirque’s newest show – it’s about to take Australia by storm – Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil, opening in Brisbane tomorrow night! See you there!


I caught up with Ana to ask the questions there isn’t usually a chance to ask her over tea and cake…


What led you to Cirque? Touring doing stuff I love.


What is your job? Stage Manager. I’m the go-to girl. I ensure the safety of the artists in training and during the show, and I keep the show running smoothly. I’m timekeeper, artist-tech liaison; the show is my hands once the curtain goes up. I work with coaches, dance masters and artistic directors. I take care of artist rotations and scheduling, documentation and archival. As Stage Manager, I work with the crew to load in the day before the artists arrive on site.


The best part of the job is being proud of the result, which is a sensational show.


How did you get the job? Industry experience and contacts and repeat jobs come from reputation.


What does down time look like? Skyping family and reading or exploring whichever part of the world I’m in.


When you tour how do you stay healthy? What do you eat? There are caterers who provide healthy international cuisine. Most of us have small portions throughout the day, but some artists choose to wait until after a show to eat.


We know it takes a village… You took three kids on the Saltimbanco tour. What do you have to say about touring with kids? Don’t do it! (She laughs) The artists and technicians became our extended family. I enrolled them in the Brisbane School of Distance Education and a nanny travelled with us. We sent them on cultural trips and they each kept a journal. Most interesting was the changing currencies and the languages. They had to get along together in close quarters and at times it was challenging but it was actually a really good decision.


The best thing about taking the kids on the Saltimbanco tour is that they are now world travellers, having been through 28 countries and living with people of many and varied cultural backgrounds.


You went to Hong Kong for a week. Was that so you could learn the show? I flew to Hong Kong for a week to learn the show, no time for sightseeing. You have to make time to be a tourist and you feel like you need to sleep in but it’s often worth the effort to get up and see where you are before the day begins.


Why Stage Manager? There’s no glory in being a stage manager but I’ve reached a respectable level in the industry and I enjoy putting the pieces of the show together. You need to think quickly to replace an injured artist (artist rotations share the workload and prepare against injuries. The artists learn multiple roles, like a swing would in a musical). Guest teachers come in to work with the artists.


It’s not boring. The most exciting part of the job is calling the show. It’s an adrenalin thing and seeing it all come together is awesome. There’s personal satisfaction and you’re able to make great connections with the artists when you see them succeed and congratulate them as they come offstage.


Analiese Long. Image by Ricky Morant.


What makes this show different to all the other Cirque shows? It’s a Michael Jackson concert without Michael, except he’s there, larger than life, on the big screen. Jonathan Sugarfoot Moffat was the original drummer for The Jackson Five and he has joined this tour.


It’s the only touring show in partnership with the Estate of Michael Jackson. The dancers, some of who danced with MJ, are incredible, channelling MJ’s energy. Whether or not you’re an MJ fan it’s a spectacular production that people can’t help enjoy.




Cirque du Soleil: Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour





Brisbane October 2 to 6, 2013

The Estate of Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil announced ages ago that Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour™ will arrive in Australia in September this year, and in Brisbane in OCTOBER. I haven’t had a chance to post here about it until now! And if you haven’t already booked tix, you better be prepared to miss out! This show is HOT!




This once-in-a-lifetime electrifying production uses Cirque du Soleil creativity to give fans worldwide a unique view into the spirit, passion and heart of the artistic genius who forever transformed global pop culture. Written and directed by Jamie King, the show includes 49 international dancers, musicians and acrobats. Since its world premiere in Montreal in October 2011, the enormously successful arena production has thrilled audiences across North America, Europe and Asia.


The four week Australian tour will include strictly limited engagements at Perth Arena (18 to 22 September), Sydney’s Allphones Arena (26 to 29 September), Brisbane Entertainment Centre (2 to 6 October) and Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena (10 to 13 October).


Book online or by calling 132 849. Tickets range from $89 to $189 each.


Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour is a riveting fusion of visuals, dance, music and fantasy that immerses audiences in Michael’s creative world. Aimed at lifelong fans as well as those experiencing Michael’s creative genius for the first time, the show captures the essence, soul and inspiration of the King of Pop, celebrating a legacy that continues to transcend generations.


Cirque Du Soleil Michael Jackson Tour 4


THE IMMORTAL World Tour takes place in a fantastical realm where we discover Michael’s inspiration and the wellspring of his creativity. The secrets of Michael’s inner world are unlocked—his love of music and dance, fairy tale and magic, and the fragile beauty of nature.


The underpinnings of THE IMMORTAL World Tour are Michael Jackson’s powerful, inspirational music and lyrics—the driving force behind the show—brought to life with extraordinary power and breathless intensity.


Through unforgettable performances Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour underscores Michael’s global messages of love, peace and unity.


Writer and Director Jamie King is a multiple Emmy Award® and MTV Video Music Award® nominee and has choreographed some of the most popular music videos and directed some of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time. For the past 12 years, he has served as Madonna’s creative director, and most recently directed world tours for Rihanna, Celine Dion, Spice Girls and Britney Spears. King has worked with an array of superstars including Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Shakira, George Michael, Elton John, Diana Ross and Jennifer Lopez. This is Jamie’s first show with Cirque du Soleil.


2509_1396_Photo OSA Images Costumes Zaldy Gocol  2011 CirqueJackson I.P. LLC


Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour features the diverse talents of the following creative minds: Guy Laliberté – Creative Guide; Gilles Ste-Croix – Creative Guide; Chantal Tremblay – Director of Creation; Jamie King – Writer and Director; Carla Kama – Associate Show Director; Kevin Antunes – Musical Designer; Greg Phillinganes – Music Director; Mark Fisher – Set Designer; Michael Curry – Props and Scenic Designer; Zaldy Goco – Costume Designer; Germain Guillemot – Acrobatic Performance Designer; Scott Osgood – Rigging and Acrobatic Equipment Designer; Olivier Goulet – Projection Designer; Martin Labrecque – Lighting Designer; François Desjardins – Sound Designer; Travis Payne – Choreographer; Rich and Tone Talauega – Choreographers; Debra Brown – Acrobatic Choreographer; Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo – Choreographers; Jamal Sims – Choreographer; Cloud and Tamara Levinson – Choreographers; Mandy Moore – Choreographer; Florence Cornet – Makeup Designer.



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