NOT ONLY DOES the new Cirque resident show Michael Jackson One completely differ from Immortal, it improves upon the larger, touring production, too. Let us count the ways.
1. CIRQUE CURBS THE WHIMSY
Immortal boasted interesting visual interpretations of Jackson’s songs, frequently using the King of Pop’s backyard muse — his “Giving Tree” — and the location where it planted its roots, the Peter Pan-themed Neverland Ranch. But sometimes, Cirque and director Jamie King’s resulting fantasyland didn’t pair up well with the songs.
For MJ One, Cirque and King reined in the reverie, favoring instead direct inspiration from Jackson’s videos and iconography. In fact, Jackson’s glove, hat, shoes and microphone are less props than they are MacGuffin-like objects serving the narrative — and, in some cases, they “perform,” sans humans.
2. DITTO FOR THE USUAL ABSTRACT STORY/CONCEPT
That narrative isn’t crystal clear, of course — this is Cirque du Soleil. But its general premise is simple enough: Four older kids seize Jacko memorabilia and are then chased throughout the 90-minute production by the various villains in their musical hero’s creative and real life: zombies, gangsters, paparazzi. Various song and dance numbers complement those scenes.
3. GETTING INTIMATE WITH MICHAEL
A series of giant screens both onstage and off threatens to swallow the orchestra section, which isn’t terribly far from the rest of the seats. That close proximity allows for appreciation of detail, a pleasurable bombardment of the senses and an all-around more immersive experience that few attendees of the arena show could have experienced.
4. SUFFERABLE IDOL WORSHIP
The uses of Jackson’s image are largely tasteful — even during the token young-Michael moment featuring “I’ll Be There,” which nearly broke the maudlin threshold in Immortal, but is just sentimental here. And the inevitable Strip version of the dead-singer hologram finally surfaces during “Man in the Mirror,” done more authentically than Coachella’s Tupac.
5. DANCING, DANCING, DANCING!
Yes, there are the requisite acrobatics, gymnast tumbles and trampoline ballets, but none of it compares to the dance routines, many of which will be familiar to the MTV Generation, including the famous cemetery shuffle from “Thriller” and the climactic number from “Smooth Criminal” — and yes, they actually pull off the anti-gravity lean. The only choreographed element that scored bigger cheers than that bit of trickery were the dancers in programmed light suits during an otherwise pitch-black “Billie Jean.” Among all the updates, it’s the emphasis on footwork that makes this show the One.
MICHAEL JACKSON ONE Saturday-Wednesday, 7 p.m., 10 p.m.; Mandalay Bay, www.cirquedusoleil.com, $109-$198