LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — When Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson One” opened in 2013, Jackson’s brothers Tito, Jackie, and Marlon said “it was hard not to like it”. Audiences seem to agree since the show celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year. But how do you capture the King Of Pop’s moves and music in an authentic way?
“You can’t. Really and truly, there’s only one Michael Jackson,” said Tiffany Baker, the Senior Artistic Advisor of Performance for the show. “You can do your best but he’s the best.”
However, the show has gotten help over the years thanks to Cirque collaborating with the Jackson estate.
“It’s truly inspiring to work with the estate. Every time they come in, they always give us a little hidden gem about Michael Jackson that we’re truly blessed we get to learn,” Baker said. “We’ve worked with people who are his former dancers, that were on tour with him, his artists, and it’s really, truly as close as you can get to working with Michael Jackson today. They keep all of our artists with the Michael Jackson vibe and staying true to his style and form.”
WEB EXTRA: Full interview with Tiffany Baker
Cirque du Soleil Senior Artistic Advisor of Performance talks to Channel 13 about “Michael Jackson One”
That includes iconic dance moves that have been mastered by artists like dance coach Jose Concepcion.
“Before this, I was in Puerto Rico. I was a student and I was with a group of guys where we competed around the world in dance. We saw the audition from Cirque du Soleil for the Michael Jackson show and we were like let’s do it,” Concepcion said. “I didn’t think we would get it. We auditioned and went back to Puerto Rico. That’s where we received that call and that call just changed my life.”
Concepcion was a dancer in the show for 10 years before he was promoted to dance coach a few months ago.
“I’ve been able to evolve just from being a dancer to being a slack liner, actor, and now dance coach,” Concepcion said. “Now, I work a little more behind-the-scenes integrating people into the show and keeping the integrity of the show. We’re one of the last people to be able to have the honor to keep [Jackson’s] essence alive. It’s of extreme importance for us to be able to do that with a level of performance that does justice to the great artist Jackson was.”
WEB EXTRA: Dance coach Jose Concepcion shows anchor Anjali Patel the moves to “Beat It”
Cirque du Soleil dance coach Jose Concepcion teaches Anjali Patel the moves to “Beat It”
That authenticity also extends to the music. That’s where John Kessler, the Supervisor of Audio, and his team steps in.
“To make everything happy musically for the show, it takes four audio technicians: a guy running RF on deck, a front of house mixer, a playback engineer, and a floater than can respond to emergencies,” Kessler said. “In the playback position, they’re responsible for setting the tracking of what song plays in what order and responding to any emergencies that happen on stage.
Kessler said that rarely happens but they’re ready just in case.
“In the event we need to extend music to give us a little more time to set up on stage, [playback] is responsible for making that happen,” Kessler explained. “We need to coordinate with stage management and the front of house mix operator as well as work with our live musicians. It’s a very active 90 minutes. There are hundreds of calls in the show and cues and set changes and many artists and technicians coordinating together.”
The theater has over 3,000 seat speakers and the audio team checks all of them regularly.
“That’s spread over 20 power amplifiers and 175 loud speakers. It’s a really big PA so we get really nice equal, even coverage,” Kessler said. “To ensure that quality is upheld every night, we do a full systems check where we play music through each loud speaker individually, each seat, and we check them all every day.”
WEB EXTRA: John Kessler, the Supervisor of Audio at “Michael Jackson One” explains how loops work during the show
John Kessler, “Michael Jackson One”‘s Supervisor of Audio, gives Channel 13 a closer look at how the show’s systems work
You might think listening to the same music all the time might get old. However, Kessler said it’s still fresh every day.
“Growing up, the “Dangerous” album was the first album I had. It’s interesting that even after 10 years and thousands of shows, I still don’t really get all that tired of listening to it,” Kessler said. “I think it’s the music that makes “Michael Jackson One” special. So many experience a show like O and they’re discovering the music for the first time when they see the show. When the audience arrives here, they have a pretty high expectation for what that’s going to sound like.”
The show continues to evolve as new artists and new acts come and go. According to Baker, it’s fun to see how Jackson has inspired them in their own careers.
“It’s quite unique to see how an artist has inspired many generations. They all experience Michael in a different way and he’s still such an inspiration for artists in the dance world,” Baker said. “People come in and they’re ready to absorb as much as they can. We really want to make sure that whatever way the artist can connect, they can really connect to the show and really have the inspiration because it will be authentic to the audience when they watch the show.”
BEHIND THE SCENES: Performers rehearse and get ready for performances of “Michael Jackson One”
“Michael Jackson One” performers rehearse ahead of two performances later tonight.
Baker added that watching audiences is definitely a fun part of the job that can brighten her day.
“For the artists, it’s different for every show. Every show is fresh. Every show is new. It’s a unique experience for every single, individual audience,” Baker said. “Some days, you connect with someone who’s in the front row. We have the children that come in dressed like Michael and that alone will inspire you to keep smiling and moving.”
And after a decade of smiles and applause, Concepcion said he thinks the future of the show is bright and he’s grateful to be one of the many people that get to call “Michael Jackson One” home.
“Coming from where I come from, I would have never imagined I was going to be able to have a career based on dance,” Concepcion said. “To be able to evolve from that and to be able to say that I’m keeping the image of one of the greatest artists to have ever lived alive, I’m just very grateful.”