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Cirque hits road with Jackson ‘Immortal’ show

$57 million production launches in October 2011

The Michael Jackson estate and Cirque du Soleil have mapped out a concert-like sked for their $57 million joint venture, “Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour.”

Arena tour — which kicks off in Cirque’s homebase of Montreal on Oct. 2 — is the Jackson estate’s primary effort to capitalize on the work of the late musician in the live-entertainment realm. Cirque, too, has upped its ante, spending 2 1/2 to three times what it usually does on its touring productions, according to a rep for the Canuck company.

Producers have tapped concert director Jamie King to write and direct “Immortal.” King has been the creative director for Madonna for more than a decade and recently helmed concert toursfor Rihanna, Celine Dion and Britney Spears, among others.

“Immortal” will be set in a typically fantastical Cirque world called Neverland in a reference to the land of eternal youth in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” after which Jackson named his ranch in Santa Barbara County. As onstage action explores Jackson’s inspirations and interests, songs will be drawn from the Jackson catalog.

Some songs may be remixed working off the original tracks, but Jackson’s lead vocal will always be at the forefront, per King. “We want to make sure the fans are provided the songs we all know and love,” he said.

Prior Cirque outings based on big-name music catalogs — Beatles show “Love” and Elvis Presley offering “Viva Elvis” — were conceived as sit-down productions for Las Vegas, where both are still running.

“Immortal,” on the other hand, will play one-night stops in nearly every one of its skedded cities, except for two nights in Montreal and a weeklong run in Vegas Dec. 3-11, 2011.

The thinking is to serve the Jackson fans who were disappointed not to have seen the live stage version of “This Is It,” the concert tour cancelled in the wake of Jackson’s 2009 death.

Rehearsal footage was assembled into a concert film that has racked up a worldwide gross of more than $250 million since its release last year.

“This is a show that’s made to be on the road,” said John Branca, co-executor of Jackson’s estate.

Production will likely embark on an international tour after it’s circled North America.

Tour stops are skedded through June 29, 2012. Show will play the Staples Center in L.A. Jan. 27, 2012, and hit Gotham’s Madison Square Garden on April 3, 2012.

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