Cirque du Soleil moonwalks into South Florida with 'Michael Jackson: The Immortal Tour'

When Talia Marino was a young girl, she adored Michael Jackson. She loved his infectious music, his otherworldly dance moves, his electrifying stage persona.

“I was one of those kids who would watch MTV and wait for his videos,” says the Miami native, now 33. “I wanted to be that girl in The Way You Make Me Feel.”

“That girl” was Tatiana Thumbtzen, a curly-haired vixen of a dancer who played the King of Pop’s elusive love interest in the classic 1987 video.

“You know, my hair is curly, so … ,” she says with a laugh.

Marino might have been only 7 at the time, but her early career aspirations would prove to be fairly prescient. The graduate of Coral Gables High School and Florida International University is now a dancer and aerialist for Cirque du Soleil, whose latest show, Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, moonwalks into the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Friday and Saturday.

And no one is more excited about it than Marino.

“I am stoked – you have no idea!” she says. “I’ve been away since 2009 – I was in the [Viva Elvis] show in Las Vegas – and it’s such a heartwarming opportunity for me to be performing in my hometown. I grew up in Miami, born and raised, and I represent the 3-0-5!”

Immortal is somewhat of a departure from typical Cirque du Soleil shows, in that it’s essentially a tribute to the music and life of Michael Jackson, who died in 2009 at the age of 50. Fans will hear timeless hits including “Billie Jean,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Thriller,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Beat It” and many more, enhanced by 49 dancers, musicians and acrobats.

“It’s kind of like a hybrid of a pop concert meets Cirque du Soleil,” says Marino. “You’re not going to be seeing a lot of circus acts, but you are gonna see some classic MJ moves, and of course his music. We actually have four musicians with us who have been with MJ for a decade, so it’s a wonderful tribute: Michael Jackson through and through, from beginning to end.”

It’s clear that although Marino, who also was the dance team coach at Miami Gulliver Academy, may have moved on in a geographical sense, she never left emotionally.

“I was a Gable-ette at Coral Gables,” she says. “I was one of the captains there, and my old dance coach is coming, and family is coming, and just everyone. And I’m proud to have graduated from FIU – my mom’s a graduate as well. So it’s cool to come back and perform – I have people reaching out to me every day, like “Oh, I’m coming on this day, I’m coming on that day.” So it’s such a cool opportunity just to hang out with people and represent Miami.”

If you get Marino started on her favorite Miami hangouts, be prepared, as she might not stop.

“I definitely love the Fontainebleau. When I go back, I go have lunch there and go to the pool there,” she says, her excitement growing. “And of course, South Beach – I like News Café. And then another restaurant – Islas Canarias. I miss my Cuban food! I have to make it when I’m away from home, but when I’m there, I definitely hit up all the Cuban spots, and my favorite is Islas Canarias. And I miss shopping there, even at Dadeland Mall. The little things – Chicken Kitchen. And the beaches – Key Biscayne, Key West. Even Coconut Grove, just walking around. Everything. This girl misses everything about Miami.”