Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cirque du Soleil's: Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour at the JLC

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Cirque du Soleil's: Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour at the John Labatt Centre and it was absolutely FANTASTIC!! The music, the dancing, the costumes, and everything else had everyone on their feet at the end for a standing ovation.

My mother and I dined at La Casa Ristorante before the show and it was delicious. I had the Chicken Picatta and my mom had the Salmon Della Casa.  If you haven't been there, I highly recommend it. 

Anyways…..onto the show!

We arrived at the JLC around 7:30 and took our seats. We were very close to the stage; the first level up from the floor and to the side so we could see the entire back stage and walkway/front stage as well. These two were ready for the show!
I started off feeling a bit underwhelmed during the first few scenes. I'm not sure if it's because I had my expectations set too high, or because there was a lack of context and continuity within the first few songs/scenes. 

The opening scene had five men dressed in various Michael Jackson style outfits, who reappeared throughout the show for various scenes, including a nice mash-up of the earlier Jackson 5 songs (see picture below). They were carrying around boom boxes and the song "Working Day and Night" came on and the men danced and eventually were lifted into the air and did an interesting in-air run against a screen displaying various fast moving images, finally they began painting the screen.  It was an interesting visual display, but I had hoped for a grander opening number to one of MJ's more famous songs.
It then transitioned into the cheesiest/creepiest of the scenes. MJ's voice came over the speaker and he was speaking about the importance of having a childhood (they used clips of MJ’s voice at the beginning of a few scenes, which was hauntingly beautiful and reminded me of what an impact he had on this world). Then the song "Childhood" came on and suddenly there was a giant air balloon floating across the stage/over top of the floor audience. There was a child in the balloon and it took me a minute to realize it was a life sized doll. It creeped me right out, but I understand the significance of the scene and the song in terms of Michael’s life and thoughts on childhood. 

After that, things picked up and there was a lot of high energy scenes, including a group dance to “Shake Your Body Down To The Ground” and an interesting factory-like scene to the tune of “Dancing Machine”.

Things slowed down a bit after that with a tableau scene to the song “Ben”. Again, the slow stuff just didn’t appeal to me as much. It felt out of place and overly contrived, plus it didn't have the high energy dancing/choreography that I love!

Luckily things picked right back up again and the performers paid homage to MJ’s video for “Smooth Criminal”. Decked out in their zoot suits, they did a great dance and even ended with an awesome lean scene that incorporated fireworks into it! This transitioned nicely into “Dangerous” where a female acrobat performed a dance on a pole that made me think that she must have had her bones removed at some point. The way she could twist and stretch her body was unreal. 
"Thriller" closed the first half and was depicted as a graveyard scene, of course. They did the classic Thriller dance wonderfully, which was a nice treat so close to Halloween! Everybody cheered as the curtain closed for intermission.

The second half I enjoyed more than the first I think, perhaps because there was less of the slow scenes, or maybe the scenes that were slow were done in a less creepy way! It opened with "I Just Cant Stop Loving You", which actually made me laugh a bit because I love this song and I plan to use it in my wedding. My husband and I will have our first dance to this song and perform a cheesy duet as we enter the dance floor as well.* Anyways, the focus was on a male and female acrobat doing crazy things with their bodies in the air. I think everyone just stares in awe when acrobats perform, it’s such a unique talent.

A slow scene in the second half that was hands down my favourite of the slower ones was to the tune “Human Nature” and it had acrobats in the air wearing LED light up suits. They moved around in the dark black air with tons of little lights (stars) lit up on their bodies, looking like constellations in a night sky. There was a slight creep factor in this one too though, when I realized there was a giant fake child again sitting on the crescent of the moon behind the floating constellations. But the focus was on the beautiful star show, so the creepiness faded. 
The second half continued with great songs and dance scenes. Including one where 5 male acrobats did flips and jumps in perfect synchronization. 
They paid homage to Michael's "Jam" music video by incorporating basketballs into a group dance scene. Another great scene was set to "They Don't Care About Us", which had powerful images on the background screens and giant robots marching/dancing. 
The ending was strong with a mix of "Can you Feel It", "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" "Billie Jean" and "Black or White". But the final song was "Man in the Mirror", which is apparently the song Michael used to like to close his shows with.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention that Bubbles was there too! In his overalls. There was also a scene that used giant versions of Michael's signature sequin glove and penny loafers as props.
It was an amazing show and while there were certain songs I might have interpreted differently, I have so much respect for everyone involved with the performance, on stage and behind the scenes. It was truly a tribute to Michael Jackson and reminded everyone of his talent and influence. 

I want to thank the JLC for giving me and my mom (she also loved it!) the opportunity to see the show. If you aren't following them on Twitter yet, you better do it RIGHT NOW! @JLC

*I am currently single, so if you're a nice young single man and the idea of doing a hilarious duet/dance to an MJ song at your wedding sounds appealing, feel free to message me ;) 

Photo source:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How far do we extend?

Technology is an extension of oneself, so kinda says Marshall McLuhan.
He also says something about the medium being the message, but let's not go there ...yet.
Firstly let's look at technology as an extension of the human body.
When the car was invented, people began walking less and relying more on automatic transport. Cars, buses, trains, planes, who needs feet anymore? Imagine the definition you'd have in your calves if the car had never been invented.

Think of a computer and using your keyboard (or even think back to a typewriter if you are a dinosaur like me and ever had the pleasure of using one). Suddenly the need for even using your hand to write a letter was removed. Mind you, you need two hands to type-if you're doing it properly ...maybe I should pick up a pencil more often?!

Anyways, I digress.....if we look at these technological advances as extensions of the body, we can see how they relate to our physical being. But what about our mental being?
This evening I found myself, as I often do, with my iphone in my hand. God bless that little gadget. Then I realized that I had no reason to have the phone in my hand. I had just finished chatting with a friend, I didn't have any outstanding text messages, I had recently checked Twitter and Facebook, what else could I possibly need my phone for? Maybe play a round or two of my latest addictive game- Mouse Maze? Nope, I didn't even need to do that.

I realized that I didn't need to have the phone in my hand, but I wanted to. I wanted to know exactly when the next tweet would come in, or the next thing my friend would say back to the text I sent earlier. My iphone is beginning to serve as my entire persona.
I don't even need to go somewhere to engage in conversation with someone, I can just text them!

I feel like some people might be used to this, we all know about cyber culture and how social media has made it easier than ever to interact with people at the click of a mouse button. Some people even started the Internet craze long ago in chat rooms, with ICQ or other founding cyber groups. Others are more recent to hop on the band wagon, with the increase in mobile devices being used for everything imaginable and the ways to communicate being endless.

It doesn't matter when you started, but if you are reading this, then its official; you have started. Your entire online identity is an extension of yourself. It's another version of you. One that is at a distance, but still visible. One that you must remember, is still a representation of yourself and can be used for or against you. It can also mean that the other representation of yourself, the real physical being that you present to people in person might be changing. Less face to face conversation, less planning in advance for get-togethers and less socializing outside of the home makes for social awkwardness when you finally do go back to the way things used to be.

What does this mean for the future? If 10 year olds are texting and watching videos on their phones, who is climbing trees or drawing with coloured sidewalk chalk? Well....I am...but that's beside the point. What I'm trying to say is: kids are getting fat and people are becoming cyborgs.

Well..maybe not full cyborgs, but they are becoming an alternate (lazier) version of themselves. One that can do anything with the touch of a button. One that doesn't need to make a call to their friend in France, because it's easier to just write on their Facebook wall.

I have seen the future and it's just not as fun. Put down the phone, ipad, or get off your computer. Go for a walk and be amazed at what you find. A world without a filter.

This has turned into a more random and cynical post than I intended, but you get the point..maybe.
I also love the irony that I'm writing this on my computer with my iphone right beside me. I guess moderation is key. Let's continue using technology to our advantage, but lets not go full cyborg alright?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The John Labatt Centre and #JLCReviewer #MJCirque

The John Labatt Centre (JLC) is an amazing venue for concerts, shows, and sports games located in the heart of downtown London right across from the Covent Garden Market. The JLC has been doing a remarkable job of bringing some big names to London (including NKOTBSB this past August, which was THE BEST concert I've ever been to!!) and recently they have expanded their social media efforts with the new concept of the JLC Reviewer.

From my understanding, they choose a select few people for each upcoming event based on self and peer nomination, as well as proof of excellent writing skills, a blog to post reviews on, and a true desire to want to see the show. While I would have been happy to be a JLC Reviewer for any concert/show, it wasn't until they announced they were looking for a reviewer of Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil that I started squirming in my seat a bit and just had to nominate myself for such an honour.

First of all, let it be known that this show is touring 37 cities and London is one of the first stops (Oct. 18 and 19). When I first saw a commercial for this show (probably over one year ago), I remember immediately going to my computer to purchase tickets, but when I realized the good tickets cost about $250 each, I unfortunately had to step away from the computer and put my credit card back in my wallet. I told my mom about the show and she agreed that $250 was just a bit too pricey, so I just accepted defeat and put it out of my mind.
....Fast foward one year and suddenly the show is less than two weeks away and I can't stop thinking about it, especially now that the JLC has thrown this JLC Reviewer possibility in as a nice twist.

Let it be known that I love all theatre. I am a very into musical theatre and love any and all  combinations of song and dance/performance. I had the pleasure of seeing Alegria by Cirque du Soleil when I lived in South Korea (that's right, the Cirque even has shows in South Korea!) and I was absolutely stunned by the performance. Me and a group of friends had great seats and I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire performance in awe of what these people could do with their bodies. The music, the costumes, the movement, the lights, the set- each and every part of this performance added up together to equal perfection. I remember thinking at the time that if I had a time machine (which hopefully one day I will....just need to get that flux capacitor working), I would go back and take gymnastics classes as a child and make it my goal to be a Cirque du Soleil performer.

Now, let's digress for a moment and talk about my love for Michael Jackson. I have always loved Michael Jackson's music and I have always loved him as a person. When I heard about his death, I did indeed cry. I can honestly say there isn't one song by Michael Jackson that I don't like. From his major hit songs like "Thriller", "Beat It", "Billie Jean" and "Black or White" to some of his lesser known works of genius like "Human Nature", "They Don't Care About Us" and even "Will You Be There" (yes, from the Free Willy soundtrack). His music is timeless and  I would estimate I know the lyrics to about 98% of his songs. They are engraved in my memory because I listened to them as a kid, as a teenager, and I am still listening to them now as an adult (I also dance to them...very poorly, but with lots of enthusiasm).

So, what does this all mean? Basically, it means that I truly would love the opportunity to be a JLC Reviewer for this performance. Two of my favourite things coming together on stage for a majestic display of awesomeness would no doubt be a highlight of my life. I am curious to see how they have built a story around the music and what kinds of costumes and set design they will use. I also wonder if they will focus more on dance in this particular Cirque performance, or if there will still be a high level of gymnastics and acrobatics.

The only thing I can say for certain, based on some video previews I have watched and the high caliber of performance I know the Cirque is capable of, plus the universal greatness of MJ's music, this show will be AMAZING.

For a chance to be a #JLCReviewer and for more updates and info from the John Labatt Centre, follow them on Twitter- @JLC and find them on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter as well!  @AndreaKBattista

Monday, October 3, 2011

New Amazing Race and Dexter!!

Has another year already gone by? The answer is: yes. yes it has.
A new season of the Amazing Race and Dexter have just begun.
My teams this year are: Andy and Tommy (professional snowboarders) and Justin and Jennifer (brother and sister)
I haven't watched the premier of Dexter yet, but I will by the end of today. With Julia Stiles gone and Colin Hanks in, it looks promising.