Cirque du Soleil and the Michael Jackson Estate's tribute to the King of Pop is a visually super-charged journey through inspiration and self-discovery. The plot -- four friends' good-versus-evil quest for solidarity and self-belief -- is a backdrop for weighty motifs that touch on civil rights, sexuality and loneliness en route to a message about world unity.
Each of four main characters receive an object from Michael -- the show's narrator and spirit guide -- and develop as individuals as they take on their mentor's qualities. First, Clumsy is given Michael's shoes, and with his newfound balance, performs a double slackline act to "Bad." Next, Shy overcomes her name when she receives Michael’s glasses, and she vanquishes a troupe of warriors in a martial arts display set to "2000 Watts" and "Jam." Then, Smarty Pants, the de facto leader of the four, puts on Michael's hat and is imbued with the artist's legendary gracefulness in "Smile." Finally, Sneaky, the troublemaker, performs a playful manipulation act with the rogue glove to "This Place Hotel" and "Working Day & Night."
The objects become talismans that lead the four to understand that they were brought together by their love of Michael and are meant to carry on his vision of joy, peace and kindness.
Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil is appropriately dance-driven. A phantom-like character who doesn’t exactly represent Michael but does embody his spirit moves fluidly around the stage, displaying the artist's signature grace and flair.
Most of cast moves with sharper edges, in an urban-inspired dance style that emphasizes quick shifts between fast and slow. The style is achieved most impressively in a dance and tumbling act set to "Smooth Criminal." Mephisto's elite force of villains, dressed in flaring trench coats, bound and flip across the stage in unison. In the air, they appear to move slower than natural, but once they hit the floor, they spring into double-time.
In a singularly beautiful scene played out to "Planet Earth" and "Earth Song," dancers move behind a translucent veil to cast interacting shadows. The artists manipulate the sizes of their shadows by placing themselves at varying distances behind the veil, and they play with illusion as they bend their forms to create images of plants and animals.
Michael Jackson ONE portrays Jackson as spirited, hopeful and, above all, magical. After the heroes are united by their love for him, Michael's spirit descends onto the stage and dances in dazzling illusions, in a miraculous moment set to "Man in the Mirror."
The heroes are challenged throughout the production by Mephisto – an antagonist made of radios, microphones, tungsten bulbs, televisions, cameras and surveillance equipment. The image bitterly pokes fun at the paparazzi and media muckrakers that plagued Jackson throughout his life.
But light and darkness become one at the close of the show, and the audience is left with a final message from Michael: "We're putting love back into the world. To remind the world that love is important. To love each other. We are one."