Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Like everyone, I grew up with Michael Jackson’s music (Earthsong is one of my favourites). Having heard mixed opinions about Thriller Live, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was excited to see something different.
Sitting in the stalls we had a good view of the stage, which seemed quite simplistic as we thumbed through the programme, but as the theatre lights dipped we realised we were in for quite a night.
A huge projection of Michael himself appeared on stage, whilst his life and success was explained. Although it was quite impressive, I hadn’t come to the theatre for a sales pitch and from the rustling of sweet packets, neither had anyone else. But suddenly with a burst of noise and energy the show itself sprung to life and the Jackson 5 (complete with dodgy 80’s tartan trousers) took centre stage.
The singing was reminiscent of the original group, but with a slight West End spin and perfectly synchronised dancing. Eshan Gapal, the boy playing Michael was sensational, barely school age and very cute. The audience started to ‘Feel It’ and we all clapped in time. The next few songs were just as catchy and most people looked ready to dance, particularly during the well-known numbers.
After that Act I was non-stop boogie with audience participation (a bit too soon after panto for my liking), but after an initial reluctance everyone seemed to embrace it (and my side was definitely the louder). The slower songs weren’t as popular and ‘She’s out of my life’ sung by ‘Jay Brock’ did leave me feeling like I was at an X-Factor audition, whilst some of the female dancers tried to monopolise the stage during the big group numbers.
Smooth Criminal received a huge ovation for its gangster theme, with outstanding moonwalking from the male dancers, especially ‘Michael’ who could have been on a travelator, the way he moved across the stage.
My neighbours left in the interval as they’d ‘got the gist’ but my friend and I came back ready to party. And party we did. The second act was much better, full of the most popular songs in upbeat group numbers, including a fantastic performance of ‘They Don’t Really Care About Us’ complete with drums.
Jay redeemed himself with an excellent version of ‘Beat It’ which had me itching to get up on stage. There’s no denying that Michael’s music is catchy and you can’t help but want to join in (which we did whenever an opportunity arose).
Thriller itself started off badly with the female dancer standing awkwardly whilst ‘Jackson’ sang. However, once they brought on the zombies, who crept through the audience (scaring one poor lady who had popped to the loo) and performed a brilliant dance, the audience were bopping in their seats.
This show had the millionth audience member present, so just before the end, a small girl in a trilby was loaded with Michael Jackson’s opus and discography, looking bewildered and announcing that she ‘didn’t like that ghost one’.
Overall it was a strange show, as there was no storyline and a bit too much commentary about Jackson’s life (this was when people were at their most fidgety), but the energy and talent of most of the singers made it a good evening. It was obvious that it was many of the dancers’ West End debut, but they were enthusiastic to the last and I was humming all the songs on my way home.
Thriller Live! plays at London’s Lyric Theatre until 15th September 2013. Click here for tickets.