Whatever you choose to believe of the softly spoken icon, Michael Jackson’s global prominence is irrefutable and his music, unmatched. The star’s legacy still sells millions of records to this day and has been imagined and played out in Thriller Live on the Lyric stage for a whole decade to audiences adding up to over two million – making it the longest running show at this theatre.
On this 10th birthday performance, the current company were joined by original cast members including Ben Forster and an assemblage of ‘mini Michaels’ from years gone by. The audience was also charged with the atmosphere of a family reunion as cast members old and new clapped, whooped and shouted as a tribe in mass support.
The show itself is a like being sprayed with a pressure washer of exuberance. The music is punchy and the spirit of Jackson is mightily embodied by every performer in finesse, movement and vocals. The choreography is as tight as the rock hard abdominals on parade in varying mesh, chains and lycra, recreating signature moves such as the moonwalk and ‘anti-gravity lean’ as well as ferocious company routines.
Highlights include ‘Beat it’, ‘Smooth Criminal’ and of course ‘Thriller’. Every song is grounded in a coherent story or theme – a late night punch up, a romantic encounter or a walk down a New York street – helping the audience to explore the rather aloof star who, creator of the show, Adrian Grant, later describes as the ‘kindest and most generous person he knew’.
The set is effective and simple but unimportant compared to the frankly astounding talent and stamina of these performers. In fact, the same show could be performed in a village hall and still harbour the essence of Jackson at every moment – surely emblematic of its sustained success within the West End.
You don’t have to be a die-hard fan of Michael Jackson to enjoy Thriller Live. In fact, being reminded of his paramount hits is nostalgic and riveting, especially as the party atmosphere is so palpably created. Sustaining a West End stage is no easy feat but can often go uncredited as shows blur into the landscape. But it’s no surprise Michael Jackson, of all people, delights audiences every night in Thriller Live, even 10 years after his death.
Reviewed by Nicole Darvill-Batten
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