Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Thriller Live

Image Source: Thriller Live
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Musical
Genre: Musical
Date: April 11 2016
Location: Liverpool Empire Theatre

A Michael Jackson show is always likely to be a Thriller, but there is a chance it could be Bad. You'd probably enjoy it whether you're Black Or White, but if you wouldn't, you might Blame It On The Boogie. Understanding the plot of such a show is as easy as ABC ... okay, I'll dispense with the awful Jacko puns now. (Especially since it would have been nearly impossible to find one for Earth Song.)

Thriller Live takes an energetic, entertaining and exciting look at the career of the legendary Michael Jackson. Beginning with his time in The Jackson 5 with early Motown songs, it moves onto his shift to disco music before focusing on his most famous hits (and there were many) from the 1980s and 1990s. Of course, Michael is no longer with us, so for this tribute to MJ, the songs are provided by a range of singers, along with extensive dance teams to ensure that the performances are as authentic and true to Michael's memory as possible.

With the exception of the show's biggest tunes, this production does not try to make you feel like you are watching Michael Jackson live or The Jackson 5 live. By that, I mean that those singing Michael's songs do not try to dress up like him; some singers bear no resemblance to him at all. As noted, though, from a visual standpoint we do get that "Michael performing live" feel towards the end through the dance work of the outstanding Sean Christopher, whose moves are as close to Michael's as you could ask for. The costumes are very realistic, especially for the dancers, and the clever use of props (such as scary headstones for Thriller and spray-paint to introduce the performance of Bad) adds a lot to one's enjoyment of the show.

And don't let the lack of Michael get-up fool you: the singers themselves are very good. In particular, Rory Taylor does a great job on the slower, more high-pitched numbers; his rendition of She's Out Of My Life is a show highlight. That being said, the remaining singers - Angelica Allen, Adam J. Bernard and Shaquille Hemmans - are also strong vocalists, and during some of the faster, funkier tunes, they involve audience interaction through simple yet effective techniques that resulted in a huge level of noise in the Empire.

Of course, Michael prided himself on being a quick-moving, eye-catching performer, which is acknowledged by the fast pace of the show as a whole, the almost non-stop action from the backing dancers and the bright, colourful screens which provide cool backgrounds (like the cemetery for Thriller), striking images (such as some of the animals referenced in Earth Song) and some additional contributions (e.g. a young child singing Rockin' Robin). The stage remains a pop concert-like staircase throughout, but the props and screens do make you feel like the environment is changing in line with the songs.

But, of course, the show is really all about the music. Jackson fans will know all of his greatest hits and will therefore love the show for those alone, but for the more uninformed attendees, you will recognise a ton of songs, including ABC, Rockin' Robin, Blame It On The Boogie, Can You Feel It, Shake Your Body Down To The Ground, Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, The Way You Make Me Feel, Smooth Criminal, Earth Song, Billie Jean, Thriller (of course), Bad, Black Or White and so many others. You Are Not Alone was a notable omission, but otherwise all of the expected times are here, and they are almost all performed very, very well.

As stated earlier, Thriller does not try to act as a Michael Jackson tribute show. It instead pays tribute to Michael Jackson, which it definitely succeeds at doing. With the great music, strong singers, excellent dancers and colourful backdrop, this is a brilliant journey through the legacy of The King Of Pop that I would recommend to any Jackson fan.

Dare I say that the show really was a Thriller?

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

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