Michael Jackson is going on the road in 2011 -- even if the late Jackson isn't there to be part of it.
Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, a Cirque du Soleil production based on Jackson's music and career, begins its North American run next Oct. 2 in Montreal. It plays 14 mostly Canadian cities in 2011, with 13 more announced already for 2012. Tickets are currently on sale to MichaelJackson.com subscribers and Cirque Club members, with general sales starting Nov. 6. Additional cities and multi-night engagements are expected to be announced.
John Branca, Jackson's longtime attorney and co-executor of his estate, tells Billboard.com, "We always felt it was important to have a live show that would be representative of Michael and his music and what he would have done. A lot of people were disappointed they did not get to see the This Is It show, so we've always believed that people would want to once again experience Michael in concert, and we felt this was the best way to do it."
The Immortal writer-director Jamie King -- who's worked with Jackson as well as Madonna, Prince, Britney Spears, Rihanna and others -- has spent the past five months conceptualizing the show. He plans to start casting within the next month, with rehearsals starting in early 2011.
"We do it big, because Michael would have done it large, so we're following that design if you will," explains King, noting that the 90-minute multi-media spectacle will incorporate more than 60 performers and "great video screens" situated around the stage featuring "iconic Michael imagery, Michael Jackson on screen doing what he does like only he can do."
"It's really just a celebration of the man and his legend and his immortality," King adds. "Even though he's not there physically, you will feel him spiritually and emotionally because of what you're visually seeing and hearing. It was easy for us because Michael has not only always been a fan of Cirque but has always lived in a kind of fairytale, fantastical way. So in may ways he's already kind of Cirque-like...He loves magic, fairy tale, theatricality and appreciates everything that Cirque provides. So now that we have this great marriage we have such a great opportunity to flip things upside down and make it larger than life."
Conceptually, King says, "our environment is Neverland. We get to go inside Michael's head...inside this place of beauty and serenity and peace and learn all the secrets that are Michael -- his loves, things that he believed in -- and take this fantastic journey together. It really is based off of things we all really know of Michael."
The show will likely incorporate some of Jackson's poetry, and musically, King promises that "Michael's lead vocals will be there always," but similarly to Cirque's shows dedicated to the Beatles (LOVE) and Elvis Presley (Viva Elvis!), the music will be remixed and mashed-up and re-imagined in different ways. "We'll make sure that we do have 'Beat It' and 'Bad' and the big hits as well as provide some surprises, some unreleased tracks people haven't heard yet," King says.
Branca adds that no decision has been made for a companion or soundtrack album to the show but that an album of unreleased Jackson material is being compiled for release either before the December holidays or in 2011.
Here are the dates for Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour:
Oct. 2-3, 2011: Montreal (Bell Centre)
Oct. 7, 2011: Ottawa (Scotiabank Place)
Oct. 12, 2011: Hamilton, Ont. (Copps Coliseum)
Oct. 15, 2011: Detroit, Mich. (Joe Louis Arena)
Oct. 18, 2011: London, Ont. (John Labatt Centre)
Oct. 21, 2011: Toronto (Air Canada Centre)
Oct. 26, 2011: Winnipeg, Man. (MTS Centre)
Oct. 29, 2011: Saskatoon, Sask. (Credit Union Centre)
Nov. 1, 2011: Edmonton, Alta. (Rexall Place)
Nov. 4, 2011: Vancouver, B.C. (Rogers Arena)
Nov. 9, 2011: Seattle (KeyArena)
Nov. 18, 2011: Portland, Oreg. (Rose Garden)
Nov. 29, 2011: Salt Lake City (EnergySolutions Arena)
Dec. 3-11, 2011: Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay Events Center)
Jan. 6, 2012: Denver (Pepsi Center)
Jan. 10, 2012: Sacramento (ARCO Arena)
Jan. 13, 2012: San Jose, Ca. (HP Pavillion at San Jose)
Jan. 18, 2012: Oakland (Oracle Arena)
Jan. 21, 2012: San Diego (Valley View Casino Center)
Jan. 24, 2012: Anaheim (Honda Center)
Jan. 27, 2012: Los Angeles (STAPLES Center)
Feb. 10, 2012: Houston (Toyota Center)
March 2, 2012: Miami (AmericanAirlines Arena)
March 24, 2012: Quebec City, Que. (Colisée Pepsi)
April 3, 2012: New York (Madison Square Garden)
April 10, 2012: Philadelphia (Wells Fargo Center)
June 29, 2012: Atlanta (Philips Arena)