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Thriller Live celebrates its 10th anniversary in the West End

THRILLER LIVE 10TH CELEBRATION David Julien and original 2009 cast member Ben Forster Photo Betty Zapata
THRILLER LIVE 10TH CELEBRATION David Julien and original 2009 cast member Ben Forster Photo Betty Zapata

Already the 14th longest-running musical in the West End, Thriller Live has just marked its 10th anniversary at the Lyric Theatre, ending with an on-stage ambition to notch up a second decade. From the quality of the current cast and theatregoers’ seemingly insatiable nostalgia, it’s an ambition this electrifying show is likely to achieve.

While there are elements of both, Thriller Live is neither a tribute act nor a biography-cum-jukebox – the songs aren’t even in chronological order. What you get is two hours of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits – missing numbers include ‘Ben’ and, thankfully, ‘The Girl is Mine’, his duet with Paul McCartney. The singing and dancing is performed by a large cast to a high standard and with incredible energy on a set designed by the ageless Jonathan Park with special visual effects by those masters of the impossible, The Twins FX.

The vitality of Jackson’s songs and Gary Lloyd’s choreography means that Thriller Live feels fresh though a “nerds” dance number is jarringly dated and some of the linking narrative delivered by the main vocalists is soulless and repetitive – it may well be true but how many times does one need to be told that Jackson was the “King of Pop”?
The highlight of the first half of Thriller Live is a recreation of the Michael Jackson of the 1960s, performing with his brothers as The Jackson 5 though, while Jay-Jay Prince is superb as ‘MJ’ (the role is shared among three children), the concept of a pop group fronted by an eleven-year-old seems even stranger fifty years on.

By contrast, the second half is owned by Flori Mossi who sings less but dances more, convincingly moonwalking and crotch-snatching his way through numbers from Bad and HIStory, backed by a troupe in which one dancer, Mari Macleod, is simply outstanding. The responsibility of singing Jackson’s songs is shared among four vocalists, including the charismatic Haydon Eshun – formerly with the Cowell-created boy band Ultimate KAOS – and John Moabi, who perhaps comes closest to the sound of the real Michael Jackson.

Thriller Live is a warm and fast-moving tribute to unquestionably one of the greatest entertainers of all time, and the enthusiasm and love of the cast for the songs is clear and infectious. There are some stand-out numbers – among them She’s Out of My Life, Man in the Mirror, Smooth Criminal and, surprisingly, the pious Earth Song – but more than anything, Thriller Live makes you appreciate anew the simply incredible talent of Michael Jackson, which doubtless was all along the ambition of the show’s creator, the philanthropist Adrian Grant.

Ten years down. Ten years more? At least.

4 stars

Review by Louis Mazzini

THRILLER – LIVE is a spectacular, high octane show celebrating the career of the world’s greatest ever entertainer – the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and the Jackson 5.

Established in 2006, THRILLER – LIVE moonwalked into the West End after three acclaimed UK tours and standing ovations across Europe. It is currently playing at the Lyric Theatre, where it has performed to over 2 million people, as well as simultaneously touring the UK and Europe with two other first-class productions.

To bring to life on stage the sensational dancing and distinctive sound of Jackson’s greatest hits, THRILLER – LIVE includes eye-popping multi-media effects and dazzling choreography by the shows award-winning director Gary Lloyd (who has previously worked with artists including Leona Lewis, Will Young, Robbie Williams, and Girls Aloud), plus additional choreography by 5 time MTV award-winning LaVelle Smith Jnr.

THRILLER – LIVE includes over two-hours of non-stop hit songs delivered by an exceptionally talented cast and live band, including the smash hits: I Want You Back, I’ll Be There, Show You The Way To Go, Can You Feel It, Rock With You, She’s Out Of My Life, Beat It, Billie Jean, Earth Song, Thriller plus many more!

Current Booking Period: Until 29th September 2019
Running Time: 2 hours & 30 minutes (including one interval)

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