Director: Gary Lloyd
Reviewer: Pete Benson
The seeds of Thriller Live were arguably nurtured out of love and passion when Adrian Grant set up the British Michael Jackson Fan Club. This took him on an amazing journey meeting Jackson, writing several books about him and then staging an annual Michael Jackson tribute show. With approval from the man himself that show would morph into the show we see before us tonight.
Cue music. Enter five Michael Jackson vocalists and ten lithe dancers in front of a spectacular backdrop of lights and we are up and rocking.
For most of the show the vocalists present the songs in the style of Michael Jackson, with some hints of the man in their costumes and choreography. Occasionally it falls to Sean Christopher to personify the man himself with a quite accurate impersonation. Christopher has the wiry build and captures Jackson’s physicality perfectly and his voice is as close to the real thing as anyone in the cast.
Cleopatra Higgins, perhaps more Janet than Michael, comes closest to the ease and emotion of Jackson’s voice. She is herself an excellent and charismatic performer with some experience of the pop world with her 90’s band Cleopatra.
The five vocalist intersperse the songs with some of Jackson’s incredible history. Vocalist Tyrone Lee has a particular warm easy demeanour when he addresses us in the audience and at times has a surprisingly authentic Jackson voice. The most unusual of the vocalists is Jesse Smith whose powerful voice does Michael’s songs, both ballads and rockier numbers, tremendous justice but visually looks like he is in heavy metal band complete with rocker’s long hair, hand gestures and the cry of, “Are you having a good time Aylesbury?” At one point it seemed he was going to join in with the outstanding onstage band. These musicians led by Andy Chisolm create a very authentic sound. In a nice touch the guitarists briefly appear on the stage for occasional guitar solos.
It would be good to see a little more of the band other than the occasional glimpse when the upstage screens open but in practice that would be very difficult as the full space is needed for the ensemble’s brilliant, varied and dynamic choreography. At times the choreography catches the flavour of Jacksons distinct dance style. The routine to ‘Dangerous’ in particular captures the feel and spirit of Michael Jackson. The choreography to ‘Dirty Diana’ is very sexy and clever.
Nigel Catmur’s dazzling light show is absolutely integral to the experience. Using banks of LED displays Catmur creates a whole array of amazing lighting effects. At times he makes silhouettes move along with the live dancers. Psychedelic colours swirl across the stage, beautiful blue pulses float in the air or images of iconic Jackson are rendered. He even works in a couple of lighting jokes.
This show feels very much like a loving tribute to Michael Jackson. It reveals and reminds us of the outstanding body of work the man created. This ensemble have energy and talent. It’s a fun night out as the audience stand and rock along to the sounds of a music legend.
Photo: Irina Chira | Runs until: 18th June and on tour