If you are expecting a show dramatising the history of Michael Jackson or even a show with a single Michael Jackson look alike and sound alike then Thriller Live is maybe not the show for you. If however, like me you are a fan of the music of Michael Jackson and want to hear non stop music starting at the beggining from the Jackson 5 years with early hits like “ABC” right up until later Michael Jackson solo songs like “Earthsong” performed by a hugely talented cast, great dancers and a live band, then Thriller Live is definitely the show for you.
I last saw Thriller Live when it was in Edinburgh in 2014, and this production is just as sharp (maybe even sharper) as the last show as a few things have been tweaked a bit.
The first thing you actually notice about this show when you enter the theatre is that this is a big and impressive set for a touring production to be working with -a very well designed set, serious use of high end digital screens and displays, and lots of lights. To give us anywhere near the ever changing sound of Michael Jackson over his life-time in music we actually have five vocalists on stage (six if you count the young boy from the Jackson 5 era on video screen).
Our five “Michaels” for this show were male vocalists Sean Christopher, Shaquille Maerice Hemmans, Michael Kavuma, Rory Taylor and female vocalist Angelica Allen (understudy to Cleopatra Higgins). Out of all of the vocalists here, Sean Christopher is probably the one closest in physical look and sound to Michael Jackson and he does a great job on solo spot numbers like “Billie Jean”, but it is the others who really drive this show along with Shaquille and Michael almost acting the dual roles of singers and MCs.
This show seems to take at times some unwarranted criticism including no story line and the singers not sounding and looking too much like Michael Jackson on some tours and some people not liking the idea of a female Michael. Well, to me, all of this is actually part of this show’s strength as yes there is actually a story here – it is not told in narrative form, but in an almost linear timeline of the music of Michael Jackson and it is Michael and his life in music that this show celebrates. I said earlier that Sean Christopher is probably the most “alike” Michael in this cast, and he is used only where best needed, and this is what stops this show from being an impersonator night of Karaoke. Our other singers are used where their vocals best suit the “sound” of Michael on a particular song and while they give a very close sound, no one is trying to be the man himself, and that is really what makes this show work because this is a high quality theatrical show and “bad MJ clones” can be found everywhere. Visually, there is no pretence for our other four vocalists to be look-alikes, they don’t need to, it is the music the audience is here to listen to and we get that non stop throughout this show.
All of our “Michaels” are a bit like different facets of Michael throughout his long career spanning from those childhood days to the massive “Off The Wall”, “Thriller” and “Bad” albums and covering of course that magical collaboration period with the great Quincy Jones. I am sure none of the cast will take any offence though if I say that even if we could somehow merge all of their stage “Michaels” into one, we would still not have anywhere near the real Michael Jackson. That last element missing is something that - call it whatever you want – genius, magic or maybe a God given gift was unique to Michael Jackson. The man himself may now sadly be gone, but the music lives on everywhere and Thriller Live the show gives us a wonderful tribute to that music that covers pretty much all the big songs that you would expect with great on-stage recreations of some of the classic music videos.
You have maybe guessed that I liked this show a lot. It is one of the few shows out there at the moment that I would happily just go back in and watch again if more than one performance was on in a night.
Review by Tom King