Michael Jackson ONE show at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas: A real thriller
Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

There was a time when Elvis Presley, known as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” ruled Las Vegas. But it is Michael Jackson, the late “King of Pop,” who is currently the big draw in Vegas thanks to the incredible Michael Jackson ONE show presented multiple times a week by Cirque du Soleil at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

If you should arrive at Mandalay Bay unaware that the venue is hosting the Michael Jackson ONE shows, you’ll quickly get in on the buzz as a giant statue of Jackson sits in the hotel’s lobby adjacent to check-in, with monitors showing clips from the show on a constant loop. Once inside the theater and before the show starts some fans will get a little taste of how Jackson must have felt at times while out in public, as a roaming mob of “paparazzi” single-out a few patrons to shower with celebrity-like attention, complete with fake cameras going off like crazy and exuberant exclamations of having sighted the “star.” The bit only hints at all the fun yet to come.

The show starts in earnest as Jackson’s big hit “Beat It” booms from the theater’s state-of-the-art surround sound system and a spectacle of Cirque du Soleil dancers and acrobats flood the stage; there’s so much going on in the opening segment (like many others) that it’s hard to take it all in at once.  You’ll definitely notice the girl playing the part of lead guitarist. Tall and strikingly-costumed, the woman has a prominent role throughout the show and it doesn’t hurt that every once in awhile a barrage of sparks shoots from the guitar’s machine head.

In all Michael Jackson ONE features more than 60 performers, and the audience will see the dancers performing the moonwalk and other bits of Jackson’s fancy footwork including “the lean.” With the Cirque du Soleil dancers being extremely polished, most of the routines are stunning while some are completely jaw-dropping. There are elements of humor here and there too, particularly in skits involving Jackson’s famed sequined glove which at one point comes “alive” and performs stunts that include slapping a dancer in the face. Dancers disappear and appear through trap doors, there’s an amazing pole dancing segment, and even a weird elephant-like creature maneuvered by a couple dancers, a pretty obvious and funny reference to how Jackson allegedly tried to purchase the bones of the so-called “Elephant Man.”

Cirque du Soleil is of course world-renowned for the prowess of its' acrobats, and during the show they’ll twirl on scarves from the ceiling, bounce on oversized rubber band-like devices called “slack lines” (these have been described by the performers as half-trampoline, half tightrope) and dive and bounce off of trampoline-enhanced scaffoldings, all in syncopation with Jackson’s music.

The show plays out to a soundtrack that includes “Smooth Criminal,” “Bad,” “Thriller,” “Black or White,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Dirty Diana” and others. One of the show’s most touching moments comes by a  flashback to Michael’s youth with projected clips of him singing the Jackson 5 hits “I’ll Be There” and “Never Can Say Goodbye,” cuts clearly chosen for their emotional impact. Near the end of the show Jackson actually takes the stage, sort of, appearing via hologram to dance with half a dozen members of the Cirque du Soleil troupe.

Michael Jackson ONE performances, usually two per evening, occur Friday through Tuesday at the Michael Jackson ONE Theatre, a venue that Mandalay Bay has set aside to be used exclusively for this show. The theater entrance and box office are easily accessible from the Mandalay Bay casino floor. For show times, ticket prices and more info go here.