Music: The Jackson Five and Michael Jackson
Director and Choreographer: Gary Lloyd
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
Queen have a musical about the state of music in the future, Abba have a musical about mother and daughter love, so what does Michael Jackson have a musical about?
Himself of course.
What story could ever hold a candle to the songs of Michael Jackson? Love him or loath him as a person, his talent as a singer and dancer is undeniable. Thriller Live doesn’t try to be anything other than it is – a celebration of the Motown, disco, rock, pop and soul of Jackson. No kitschy story with shoe-horned in songs, just a tribute concert to the King of Pop.
Starting with the Jackson Five era and working its way up to and beyond the legendary Thriller and Bad albums, Thriller Live is an enjoyable night of dance spectaculars set to the King’s famous tracks. Act two is by far the best half as it focuses more heavily on the latter half of Jackson’s discography, although there are many hits and singalong numbers in both acts – literally in the case of Shake Your Body, although this awkward audience interaction does feel like filler for a costume change or similar. The songs are all fronted by four main singers (Shaquille Hemmans, Adam J Bernard, Angelica Allen and Rory Taylor) who do a stellar job of bringing Jackson’s vocals back to the stage. Taylor especially is amazing to watch perform – while the others are all incredibly talented, you get the feeling they are simply singing the songs of Michael Jackson, whereas Taylor embodies the spirt of Michael Jackson, most spine-shiveringly in the fabulously rocked up Beat It.
Frustratingly, however, Sean Christopher who is touted as a fifth lead vocalist and styled to look exactly like Jackson, appeared to be lip syncing throughout his (very minimal) songs. His dance moves and mannerisms are exactly Jacksons, and he is a joy to see move (especially during Smooth Criminal) so why he wasn’t just celebrated as a pure dancer is unclear. It feels like a misuse of his talents, and as a result, he seems underused for someone so obviously picked out as the headliner.
The vocalists are only part of the show, and a mention must be made of the dancers. It is rare to see a concert and be more taken by those shaking their booty at the back, but Thriller Live hits it. Excellent choreography by Gary Lloyd feels like classic Jackson, with its use of the moonwalk, body popping and that ankle bend, but with a fresh original twist of street dance and break dancing. Of particular note here are Savanna Darnell, Courtney George and Chad Wilder, who all appear to be having such a blast on stage you cannot help but smile as you watch them. The costumes (by Shooting Flowers) and projected LED set (by Johnathan Park) also deserve praise for the visual feast they present (although avoid sitting in the stalls if you have sensitive eyes as the lights will blind you on a few occasions).
Overall, Thriller Live is not what you expect from a celebrity musical, but it is a damned good night out. Lifelong rabid fan or casual listener, there is something for everyone and is a wonderful celebration of one man’s unparalleled talent.
Runs until Saturday 2 April 2016| Image:Contributed