Reviewed by Alex Foott
Performance date – Thursday 24th October 2013
In a world that is increasingly tolerant of mediocre talent, it is reassuring to behold a celebration of one of the most prodigious entertainers of all time. With a career spanning almost forty years, the pop deity that is Michael Jackson is posthumously rocketed into the stratosphere in Thriller – Live. Not just a concert yet not quite a musical, this high energy hybrid expertly combines camp showmanship with a dazzling repertoire, hauling its audience to its feet on more than one occasion. Deserting the tenuous storylines typical of certain other theatrical homages, this show delights in its straightforward remembrance of this hugely iconic popstar, and it is no wonder that it has recently celebrated its 2000th West End performance.
A rather overwhelming montage of Michael Jackson’s achievements begins the show, reacquainting us with the sheer enormity of his extraordinary career. The universally enjoyed songs of the Jackson 5 start off this theatrical documentary, detailing Michael’s rise to fame that inspired generation after generation. Demonstrating his astonishing ability to influence musical trends, Thriller – Live presents us with a glittering array of his songs. This production cleverly reconstructs Jackson’s iconic fashion, dance style and music videos, at times updating them through the usage of the live band and the colloquial atmosphere encourages the audience to participate throughout.
It is only fitting that such a superstar should be represented by this cast of energetic performers who twist about the stage with infectious enthusiasm. The choreography is undoubtedly one of the strongest aspects of the piece. Although some of the performers appear bored and, at times, the men exude more femininity than the women, the overall effect of the dancing is impressive. The shining star among the dancers comes in the form of Leah Hill. From the moment she bursts into the space, she breathes life and character into every move, deftly catching our attention amid the flurry of motion. The show is fronted by four titans of considerable talent who confidently grasp and respect Jackson’s unique performance style. Britt Quinton, as the show’s compere, displays a clear admiration for Jackson and his soaring tenor is unnervingly similar to that of the King of Pop. Zoe Birkett, as the only female lead vocalist, is nothing short of astonishing. Every inch the popstar, she entices us into the piece with her breathtaking pop/rock belt and together, these two provide an impressive, yet sensitive, revamping of those much loved tunes.
Remorselessly cheesy and with an overzealous use of an LED display, every number in Thriller – Live is met with rapturous applause. The majority of the songs are pitched perfectly though writhing among this resplendent crowd is a truly awkward rendition of ‘She’s Out of My Life’. A pioneer for a new breed of musical eulogy, this is a show that is sure to be around for at least another 2000 performances.