Lyric Theatre, London
Why have I waited until the 10th anniversary to see Thriller Live? The King of Pop grew up watching great performers, some of whom became mentors, such as Jackie Wilson, James Brown and Diana Ross and The Supremes and was schooled in the regimented Motown pop factory. This education gave him a solid foundation to develop into one of the most talented singers, songwriters, composers, dancers and performers of pop, soul and R ‘n’ B in the world. Could Thriller Live, equal the musical stature and legacy of Michael Jackson?
Thriller Live is not a biography, it doesn’t deal with the physical and verbal abuse which Michael Jackson and his Jackson 5 siblings reportedly suffered at the hands of his father. Neither does the show examine the past and current child sexual abuse allegations made against Michael Jackson. Nor does Thriller Live even hint at the trauma and
psychology damage, Michael Jackson is likely to have suffered as a result of his childhood abuse and upbringing as a child pop star. Thriller Live, as advertised, is solely a celebration of Michael Jackson’s songs and his brilliance as a singer-songwriter, arranger and performer. So, can you separate the personal life from the artist? Well I managed to do so during the 10th anniversary of this musical.
The show has an excellent live band comprising fantastic musicians. The joy of Thriller Live is derived from a first class cast of pitch perfect singers and dancers performing Michael Jackson’s greatest hits. The lead singers have gorgeous voices and whilst they do use key Michael Jackson vocal tics and techniques, they do not present us with a facile impersonation of Michael Jackson’s voice, you hear their own singing voices; in the style of Michael Jackson, they often make the songs their own.
I am in awe of the young boy cast as the child Michael Jackson. His voice is pure and clear as he confidently sings and dances in numbers including “I’ll be There,” “ABC” and “Rockin’ Robin.” It is like watching the real Michael Jackson as a boy. There is also an adult Michael Jackson lookalike who dances, moves like him and mimes to his songs in a few numbers. But mainly we are treated to Michael Jackson’s musical history via the superb lead singers including: Vivienne Ekwulugo, Haydon Eshun, John Moabi, David Julien, Wayne Anthony- Cole and Sophia Mackay.
The dancers whip through various routines, referencing Michael Jackson’s ground-breaking videos and signature dance moves. The choreography is peppered with Michael Jackson’s innovative, popping, locking, moonwalking and stylistic poses and the cast make the back-flips and break-dancing tricks from the 80s look so easy. Particularly impressive are the routines for ‘Smooth Criminals’, ‘Dirty Diana’ and ‘Thriller’ which drew on the mini- movies of Michael Jackson’s videos.
The Thriller Live show, which doesn’t really have a plot, succeeds as a concert paying tribute to the songs I grew up singing and dancing to. Cramming a huge amount of Michael Jackson’s songs into the show, Thriller Live had the audience up on their feet singing and dancing. It is probably as near as you can get to watching the real live Michael Jackson concert and is obviously a favourite of die-hard fans. Whether Michael Jackson’s music was a soundtrack to your childhood and early adulthood, which it was for me, or you are an ardent fan, just enjoy Thriller Live for what it is. Experience the fun of this spectacular live concert, celebrating Michael Jackson’s legacy as an artist; a singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, dancer and all-round entertainer who created groundbreaking records, videos and live performances, inspiring future generations of singers, songwriters and musicians.
Thriller Live is at The Lyric Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue with a new booking period up to 29 September 2019.