Friday, 10 February 2017

Review Thriller Live

The amazing musical talent that is Michael Jackson lives on for Carolin Kopplin as she parties, hand in glove, at the record-breaking tribute show Thriller Live. 

Thriller Live
Original Concept and Book by Adrian Grant
Music and Lyrics by Various Artists

Love Never Felt So Good

Last weekend Thriller Live, the crowd-pleasing celebration of Michael Jackson's life and work of singer, beat a long-held record established by Jesus Christ Superstar to become one of the longest running musicals in the history of London's West End.

The show, which has also toured the world, has now clocked up 3,358 performances at the Lyric Theatre in London's Shaftesbury Avenue, Created by Adrian Grant, it opened eight years ago in the West End, celebrating the career of pop music superstar Michael Jackson, who unexpectedly died in dubious circumstances less than six months later.

What makes this show such a huge success? Thriller Live is certainly not a musical in the traditional sense. There is no story, only the slightest of  narratives pointing out the highlights in Jackson's career. His difficult childhood and his troubled life are not mentioned because this is not what this show is about.

It is pure celebration - Michael Jackson's talent and his back catalogue of memorable music are its subject  - a "song, dance and video spectacular" with the feel of a rock concert.

Beginning with his years as a child performer in family act The Jackson 5, this energetic and slick show follows Jackson's career, focussing on the numerous hits, demonstrating the range and versatility of an outstanding entertainer.

Influenced by James Brown and Jackie Wilson and after a spell with Steeltown Records in the Jackson family home town of Gary, Indiana, the group moved labels to the legendary Motown record company where Michael quickly emerged as the lead singer.

In the 1970s, Jackson began experimenting with disco, pop, rock, funk, and R&B at the start of a varied solo career. Developing his own distinctive style and solo career, including through pioneering pop videos, he is a massive influence on many contemporary musicians.

Among the lead vocalists paying homage to the King of Pop in Thriller Live, Haydon Eshun, puts his own personal stamp on the Jackson oeuvre. A former member of boyband Ultimate KAOS, Eshun has now notched up more than 2,500 performances in Thriller Live after eight years with the show.

Cleo Higgins, best known as the lead singer in  1990 R’n’B combo Cleopatra, also does full justice to such iconic hits as "Man in the Mirror", "Blame It On the Boogie" and "Thriller".

Meanwhile a recent newcomer to the show, Reece Bahia, sings a touching rendition of “She’s Out of My Life” and whips up the excitement with "Beat It".  He first saw the show as a child and his appearance is testament to the enduring appeal of Michael Jackson's legacy on both sides of the footlights.

Designed by Jonathan Park, the set is composed of various stages, lit up by LED panels in an explosion of colours and images.

The relentlessly upbeat concert format, slickly directed and choreographed by Gary Lloyd, keeps up the momentum.  A team of dancers in colourful costumes, courtesy of Shooting Flowers, execute skilful, athletic  routines including Jackson's iconic moonwalk and some stunning acrobatics.

John Maher's outstanding live band, hidden behind the central panels, effortlessly masters the different genres needed for the show including some rousing bass player solos delighting the audience.
Thriller Live has the vibe of a rock concert and would certainly have the audience dancing in the aisles if there were enough space in the compact Lyric Theatre.

It could benefit from a cut or two as the running time of 2 hours 30 minutes feels quite long. Nevertheless it's an amber/green light for a dazzling spectacle and tribute to a superb showman with continual appeal for home-grown and tourist audiences alike.

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