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Thriller Live review Lyric Theatre London West End 2014

Thriller Live Lyric TheatreFirstly, you have to know that Thriller Live is not the story of Michael Jackson. Which is a relief in many ways; despite his long career, stupendous success and undeniable musical genius, an in-depth analysis of the life and psyche of this complicated, troubled man would hardly be a feel-good romp. Consisting of a long stream of hits, interspersed with short commentaries from the vocalists, Thriller Live is simply a loving tribute from lifelong fan and Jackson expert, Adrian Grant, who devised and developed the show back in 2006.

And what a show it is. Its longevity speaks for itself; this high-octane cocktail of razzmatazz and hits is slick, professional and heart-warming and fully deserves the acclaim that it has received.

We start at the beginning, with the Jackson 5; the boys with their stripy, candy coloured trousers and afros as big as their smiles take us through their early hits such as ABC and I’ll Be There. Kyle Johnson is an adorable young Michael, all gawky, wide eyed charm and pure vocals. From there we are whizzed through the Disco years and a hefty whack of Off The Wall numbers.

The vocalists, apart from Kyle and the unsettling adult doppelganger David Jordan, do not look anything like Michael, and wisely do not try to. Their clothes and hair are a nod to his individual style, but everything else is in the performance. Adrian Grant is not the only Michael Jackson devotee involved in the show; all of the performers show their respect and admiration in their vocals, their mannerisms and particularly their dancing. The new star, Cleo Higgins of 90s band Cleopatra fame, probably comes closest to channelling Jackson’s magic; her voice is superb and her attitude spot on.  Gary Lloyd’s choreography is energetic and electrifying; the dancers swoop, leap and robot around the stage and the rigging, illuminated by unashamedly grandiose lighting displays and pyrotechnics.

Despite a lacklustre and awkward attempt at audience participation, it is not until after the interval that the show really gets into its stride. We are now into the Bad and Thriller years, and the choreography of Beat it, Smooth Criminal and the incomparable Thriller is excellent, replicating as it does the original videos as closely as possible. Lookalike Jordan really comes into his own here, tipping his hat, moonwalking and “shamone”ing with gusto.

There are some predictably messianic moments; Michael’s many achievements (Grammys, Platinum records, etc.) are spelled out for us in massive lights, and during one particularly gushing voice-over tribute we are treated to giant projections of Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa, the clear implication being that we should consider Jackson to be on a par with these illustrious humanitarians. Slightly nauseating, though I suspect that Michael himself would have loved it. Thankfully the moment passes quite quickly and we are soon back on less rocky ground, with young Johnson returning to the stage for a roof-raising rendition of Bad.

What with the constant media circus surrounding Michael Jackson, particularly during his difficult later years, it is all too easy to overlook his spell-binding talent and genius for reinvention and the lasting influence of his style and his music on future generations of artists, which will probably continue for many years to come. Thriller Live reminds us of his extraordinary versatility, as we are swept through a stream of soul, disco, pop and rock hits with barely time to breathe. Each and every song is a smash hit and by the end even the reserved, easily embarrassed British audience was on its collective feet, clapping, swaying, cheering and singing along, entirely caught up in the enchantment and the energy emanating from the stage.

Even someone who was not a diehard fan of the King of Pop would find it hard to dislike this show; it is a spectacular, over-the-top frenzy of music and fun. We walked out into the night beaming as widely as the people on stage.

Review by Genni Trickett

+++++++

Thriller Live
Moonwalking into the West End after three UK tours and standing ovations across Europe, Thriller Live is a spectacular show celebrating the career of the brilliant Michael Jackson, and the Jackson 5. Thriller Live is fully backed by Sony BMG Music Entertainment UK, marking the first Jackson’s dedicated live theatrical experience!

Lyric Theatre
29 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES
Evenings: Tuesday to Friday and Sunday 7.30pm and Saturday 8.00pm
Matinees: Saturday 4.00pm and Sunday 3.30pm
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Age Restrictions: Suitable for ages 8 and over.
Important Info: Contains constant use of flashing LED screen and some strobe lighting.

Author

  • Genni Trickett

    Genni is one of the senior reviewers for LondonTheatre1.com, contributing regularly with reviews for London and regional shows. Genni has been passionate about theatre from an early age, performing in various productions throughout school and university. She is currently an enthusiastic member of an amateur dramatic society in South West London. Her favourite thing about living in London is the breath-taking variety of shows and theatrical talent. https://www.facebook.com/genevieve.trickett

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