Ask anyone who Michael Jackson was and no matter what their age or taste in music, you’ll get a positive response. He really was the undisputed King of Pop and his music continues to inspire new generations. Thriller Live is an all singing, all dancing celebration of the singer’s music and throws the traditional format of a West End musical right out the window. For music fans and those seeking something new, this exhilarating stage concert could be just the ticket.
The journey of Thriller Live from idea to reality is an interesting one. It was first conceived back in 1988 by Michael Jackson superfan-turned-friend-and-author Adrian Grant. Grant had started a Michael Jackson fan club that soon saw membership reach 25,000. This drew the attention of Jackson himself and Grant was invited out to Los Angeles to meet the mega-star during the recording of his eighth studio album Dangerous. Within a few years, the fan club was holding annual Michel Jackson tribute shows. These shows developed into the stage spectacular that can be seen today on stage at the Lyric.
Thriller Live starts where all good stories do, the beginning. For Michael Jackson this was performing as a young kid alongside his brothers in the Jackson Five. The audience are taken through some of their greatest Motown hits including, ABC and I Want You Back. As the songs come thick and fast, we are witness to the rise of a global mega-star, seeing performers belt out renditions of Jackson’s solo hits such as, Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, Smooth Criminal, Beat It, Billie Jean, Dirty Diana and of course Thriller. The whole production is accompanied by stunning visual effects and projections that give a clear context to the superstar’s songs, all combining to create a dazzling spectacle of music and dance.
For music fans and those seeking something new, this exhilarating stage concert could be just the ticket.
The entire company of 20 performers dance and sing with palpable enthusiasm. The ‘jukebox’ style of the show allows for a certain amount racial and gender blindness, as the diverse cast takes turns as the lead in each number. However, at times this constant rotation of lead vocalists can feel slightly like a talent show, with each one showing off their abilities to a panel of judges - you would be forgiven for thinking of X Factor.
Choreography in most West End musicals is normally very light, letting the story come first and the dancing second, but not in Thriller Live. Michael Jackson was never one to sing standing still. His dance moves are legendary, inventing the moonwalk and iconic leg kicks, so it seems only apt that dancing features heavily in a show celebrating his achievements. Gary Lloyd’s choreography takes centre stage, with a mixture of muscular hip hop routines and ultra modern jazz or punk. The performers cope with the lighting-fast pace and intensity of the dances like true professionals, making it all look very easy indeed. There are moments when the stage is so filled with dancers, that it can feel a bit too busy a dance and energy overload. Thankfully these large dance numbers are intercut with slower and more elegant moments, giving the audience a well-needed rest.
Michael Jackson’s life was so utterly dramatic and at times desperately tragic, that it’s crying out for a meaty, narrative-led musical to be made, but creator Adrian Grant and director/choreographer Gary Lloyd have chosen to keep the focus on the music, making Thriller Live a musical for the fans, by the fans. There is no denying that it is a fun, loud and immensely enjoyable night out, but fans of Gershwin and Sondheim should look elsewhere, the clue is in the title – THRILLER!
Thriller Live is currently booking until 16 March 2014 at the Lyric Theatre.