Michael Jackson binds his soul to his work in ONE
A holographic image of Michael Jackson’s white, sparkling glove, black fedora, white sequined socks and black loafers slowly orbits a chair. His voice fills the theater every thirty seconds or so with dramatic pauses inserted between snippets of interviews. The theater has been built especially for the Michael Jackson ONE show – a way to pay respects to the man and his music, to honor what he achieved in his short life.
The guitar and melody from Michael Jackson’s “Privacy” starts to play and I already know the ONE show is going to be special. Was this the estate’s way of saying Michael was hunted his entire life? Men dressed in red suits as tabloid photographers walk around the theatre firing their cameras at the various audience members in the sold out show.
A twelve-year old Jackson sings his soulful “I’ll Be There” on the screen. Pages from a video photo book show Michael in early 1970 with his deep brown eyes looking at his future while another photo shows him smiling, from deep in his heart.
I found myself wondering what could have been, what if this boy who grew up right before our collective eyes was still alive? What else would he have had up his creative sleeve to share with us? But, we would never know. Despite his renewed sense of determination to create a spectacular show, his life was cut short on June 25, 2009.
Thinking about this moved me to tears. I could see a little black boy living in Gary, Indiana, who wiggled and moved his diaper bottom to the rhythm of the rickety washing machine and dreamed of creating the greatest show on earth. A boy whose professional education was talent shows with his brothers, where he learned to grab the audience and keep hold of each fan with no detail being missed from The Jackson Five clothes, shoes, hair, every detail. In ONE, no detail is overlooked from the costumes to the lights, acrobats, screens, sounds, sets. The only set that didn’t work for me was the “Working Day and Night” segment.
The screen flashes photos of women who Michael loved. Against a half moon in the sky, we see images of his mother Katherine Jackson, Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor. We hear Michael’s voice singing “Stranger in Moscow”, a testament to the loneliness he felt in a world that let him down when false accusations provided an excuse to try to destroy his career. When Jackson screams “I’m living lonely, baby” we know he is.
Michael Jackson’s admiration for P.T. Barnum was a well-known fact. Michael was known to have handed out copies of P.T. Barnum’s The Greatest Show on Earth to his staff. His goal, for all his shows, was to provide people escapism. Creating magic with his song and dance was part of his myriad of passions. Michael Jackson’s new residency show, ONE, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas is a testament to the spirit of his genius. I was impressed with the physical challenges the performers executed with their falls and leaps into the air.
Michael asked us to look at social issues. He asked us to stop fighting, to end war in “Heal the World” and to stop racism in “Black or White.” He danced about ending gang violence in “Beat It”, healing our planet in “Earth Song”. In “Scream”, he was incensed at how the tabloids and media lied to sell their papers. Even though he endured years of torture on a global scale, he continued to create. Even though the media always had the direction of the compass needle pointed to negative, he forgave. Even Michaels’ ability to forgive was one of his greatest character traits and accomplishments.
Michael Jackson created art of his pain, loneliness and turmoil. G-d gave Michael his talent but I think one of his greatest strengths his entire life was to cultivate his gifts, something he learned not only from his father but from Berry Gordy, Michael’s father at Motown.
Michael always spoke of wanting to bind his soul to his work. His perfection insisted that his art would make a difference and live on. In ONE, we can feel, hear and taste that his soul and his art are indeed ONE.
An artist creates something new yet the brain abhors the new. The purpose of the artist is to challenge the brain. The brain is the enemy of the artist. Michael Jackson never stopped challenging himself. He worked the stage as if he lived there his entire life. He often said he felt the happiest when he was on stage. Tonight, at the ONE show, I feel the magic that Cirque Du Soleil has created with Michael’s music and I could feel the essence of Michael, back on stage.
We are taken on a journey of the interplay between light and dark. Even though the media tried to destroy Michael, his consciousness was elevated. He had an ability to feel, to become the music, the physical incarnation of the beat. He understood the vibrational energy that yogis understand with mantra. That is not something everyone is tuned into. Michael was.
Do we remember Michael Jackson for his heart, his art, his soul? Is any of it separate? This shy, dynamo child prodigy grew up into a confident man full of swag who was in complete control of his artistry. Michael Jackson pushed the envelope on dance, music, and this show does as well. Maverick is a word I use to describe very few. MJ was a maverick not only with music but his iconic fashion statements. The ONE costumes are reinvented by the show’s costume designer, Zaldy Goco, while keeping the classic M.J. look, he updates them to a modern era.
From the opening sequence of “Beat It” to the bass pumping through 5,500 speakers – which sound designer Jonathan Deans evenly placed on the backs of the seats – I know ONE is about to take us on a wild, musical journey. Can you feel it?
I loved the tribute show “Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour” and treated my two dear friends and myself by going twice. This is not a tribute like Immortal, but rather a musical journey of the King of Pop’s music that is reinterpreted to show us agility, playfulness, courage, love: themes that represent Michael and each one is represented in ONE. Like Immortal, this show is written and directed by Jamie King. For this show, King collaborates with Montreal native Welby Altidor.
When I hear “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, and I look at the white sky filled with stars from the Milky Way, I feel grateful to have grown up in the era of Michael Jackson, who believed his gift came from G-d, that the music came to him from the source. Michael was a spiritual man, deeply connected to the universe, who was known for feeling guilty for taking credit for writing his songs because he believed they were created from above. When Michael was creating or performing his music, we were witness to an artist in a state of grace.
The Michael Jackson ONE show is a visual treat, a show filled with dazzling lights, acrobatics and dancing. It’s a journey filled with timeless music that brought me to tears one moment to smiling from deep in my heart the next.
Michael Jackson wanted to bring us escapism, and to heal the world. I think he is smiling down on us, wherever he is, showing us love is always stronger than hate.
ONE gives us a taste of Michael Jackson’s soul; a magical, mystical, spiritual symphony of sound and passion. We are given the experience of Michael’s moral conscious, his work ethic and his musical genius. Michael Jackson had the voice of an angel, an angel who could sing bass, baritone and tenor. Angels aren’t supposed to live on Earth but G-d knows he tried.