Thriller Live – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh


Director &Choreographer: Gary Lloyd

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

Michael Jackson was a tremendous talent, regardless of the controversy which would follow him in later life. Even those who would not describe themselves as Jackson fans can still appreciate the immense presence and acknowledge the cultural figure that he was. So can a jukebox musical really do the performer justice?

Thriller Live is a collectionof Jackson’s greatest and most memorable hits, sprinkled with some others which should have been left on the dance floor.

What might be off-putting to the audience is the narrative, or ratherthe complete lack of one. While a concert styled musical doesn’t necessarily suffer from no story, the few littered facts and figures about Jackson’s life do nothing to remove the feeling of an assembly line production. Manufactured routines churned out one after another leaving little to no time to invest in performers or the music.

While still attempting to find firm footing during it’s opening act, Thriller tries too hard to grasp our attention. Dangerous and She’s Out of My Life save this act… just. The rest feels forced and attempts to elicit too many nostalgic feelings with an over reliance on visual displays.

Thriller’s second halfisa completely different show. While it is still lacking coherence, there is power and precision in Sean Christopher’s incarnation of Jackson, who until now is seldom seen. Christopher’s choreography and ability to become Jackson is astonishing, it crosses from imitation to transformation. The down side to this is that it highlights the flaws in the ten backing dancers, all talented in their own right but at times feel like the stage isn’t big enough for them. There’s a constant competition to catch the audience’s eye.

Acting as a continuous finale the second act provides all the gems you’ve been waiting for; Smooth Criminal, Dirty Diana, Billie Jean and the titular Thriller. However, the real stand out performance of the showcomes in the form of a rendition of They Don’t care About Us in which all of the Jackson performers raisethe roof.

Musically the second act stomps all over its predecessor and the band deserves plaudits. Though at times some lyrics are drowned out by the score, lead vocalists Rory Taylor and Cleopatra Higgins deliver professional performances which feel entirely natural. Though the contrived nature of Earth Song drags the production to a halt, saved only by Christopher’s exquisite Billie Jeanafter.

At times the lighting design is unique and the use of screens to produce graffiti during Bad or ricochet bullets flying around the theatre during Smooth Criminal compliment the production. This is a rare glimpse of genius in a sea of over saturated flashes and headache-inducing blinding spotlights.

This production, at times, displays the deep love and awe Michael Jackson inspired in his fans. More often than not however, this show suffers from awkward transitions and far too much filler to be a real thriller.

Runs until Saturday 26March2016 | Image: Contributed

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The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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