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Cirque du Soleil takes on Jackson

Cirque du Soleil is to produce a show focusing on Michael Jackson's back catalogue.

One is a circus act known the world over for its acrobatic feats, the other a pop singer of the stuff legends are made of. And now, almost a year on from Michael Jackson's untimely death, the Canadian circus troupe, Cirque du Soleil, has announced plans for a new tour that has been inspired by the late, great King of Pop. Following on from the live tour, which is due to take place late next year, Cirque will take the act to a more permanent home in 2012, amid the bright lights and ostentatious glamour of Las Vegas. With previous productions incorporating the music of Elvis and The Beatles under their belt, the acrobatic group should be more than capable of tackling Jackson's extensive discography.

With profits being split 50/50 between Cirque and Jackson's estate, this is the third major deal made by the singer's family since his death last June. In March, the Jackson estate and Sony joined forces to create the most expensive music deal for one single artist in history. The deal, which will see Sony release 10 new albums in the singers name as well as keep control of Jackson's back catalogue until at least 2017, saw the singer's estate make a cool $250 million (Dh918 million), not to mention the added revenue the family will get in royalties.

Jackson himself was reportedly a huge fan of Cirque's performances, first catching one of the troupe's spectacular shows in Santa Monica, California, several years ago. A visit to Cirque's headquarters in 2004, coupled with a viewing of one of their Beatles-inspired spectaculars (called Love) in 2006, prompted the entertainer to start making plans of his own to work alongside them. A press statement from Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, on the troupe's official website read: "Michael Jackson is the King of Pop and an all-time phenomenal artist, both timeless and contemporary. As a creative challenge, this project is the ultimate. Through the use of cutting-edge technology, we will produce a Cirque du Soleil experience not only worthy of Michael but unlike any other we have created before."

After Jackson died, plans for the show - which had included basing the whole extravaganza on his huge hit Thriller - were pushed aside. John Branca, who was with Jackson the first time he saw Cirque du Soleil, and who currently acts as co-executor for Jackson's estate, spoke about the new show in a statement released through Cirque's website: "This will not just be a tribute to Michael's musical genius, but a live entertainment experience that uses the most advanced technology to push every creative boundary as Michael always did. Having attended Cirque du Soleil performances with Michael, I know he was a huge fan. We are excited to be partners with Cirque du Soleil to give Michael's fans a truly unique way to hear, see and feel Michael's music."

Cirque has risen in popularity since its creation in 1984 by the two former street performers, Laliberte and Daniel Gauthier. After a period of downturn in the late 1980s, Cirque has now expanded worldwide with more than 4,000 employees, from more than 40 countries, producing 19 shows in 271 cities. Cirque also has several permanent shows, based in Vegas, which attract 9,000 visitors a night, bringing the total number of people who have seen a show over the years close to 90 million.

There are also plans to extend Cirque's reach to the Middle East. A major partnership with the property developer Nakheel will see Cirque create a residency show at Atlantis, in Dubai's Palm Resort. The show, which starts in 2012 and will be directed by Guy Caron and Michael Curry, is on course to run for a minimum of 15 years. One person who isn't so happy with the plan is Jackson's father, Joe, who has reportedly told the press he won't be in attendance.

However, Michael's mother Katherine, speaking to the Cirque website, fully supports the decision: "Our family is thrilled that Cirque du Soleil will pay tribute to my son in such an important way." The show will begin in North America before moving on to tour the rest of the world. The Vegas show will be more theatrical and technologically advanced than the tour, which will be a simulation of a Jackson concert. With sales of Jackson's albums going through the roof after news of his death and the documentary, This Is It, grossing $260 million (Dh955 million) worldwide in box-office receipts alone, Cirque will be hoping its latest show will prove to be just as popular with Jackson's army of fans.

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