It’s close to midnight, and something evil’s lurking in the dark…
Thriller Live celebrates 2,000 shows in the West End.
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The king of pop lives on at London’s Lyric Theatre as Thriller Live pays homage to superstar Michael Jackson. The Smooth Criminal singer passed away in June 2009 and the musical celebration allows fans to party through a journey of four decades of hit songs. Adrian Grant’s vision was established in 2006 and opened in the West End in January 2009 before Michael’s passing. The show was also recently extended to September 2014 so we paired our white socks with sparkly gloves and joined in the 2,000th show celebrations.
The show begins as if we’re waiting for a star to arrive on stage at a concert, with a video montage the audience’s adrenaline gets pumped. The excitement builds as iconic Michael Jackson memories are displayed on the screen. This of course includes the moonwalk, his most famous dance move often attempted at GT parties after a few gins. Following a collage of headlines and newspaper articles we are reminded of Michael Jackson’s achievements throughout his career in an X Factor style build up. A familiar sight to this year’s X Factor hopefuls Rough Copy who we spot excited in the audience.
As a young Michael Jackson arrives on stage an immediate “awwwww!” echoes around the room. Ten-year-old Eshan Gopal performs opening number ABC sporting tartan flares. The lighting and clothing worn by the Jackson 5 complement one another perfectly and sets the mood of being at a concert in the 70s. Eshan impressively hit’s all the high notes and the audience happily clap along to Want You Back.
Cue pink sparkly flares and funky leggings and we are transported back to the disco era. The audience is a mixed bunch so whilst some reminisce; others get a glimpse at the Blame it on the Boogie days. As the audience bop along in unison three male leads perform accompanied by a feisty Zoe Birkett. At first sceptical about a female Michael Jackson it’s clear that Zoe has mastered the vocals and the moves as she takes control of the stage. From her arrival she puts on a convincing performance without the need to actually dress up as Michael. (She does however remind us of Samantha Mumba.)
As the live in-house band plays Let’s Dance Let’s Shout the audience are split in two for a dancing and singing (shouting) competition. It’s a clever move to have audience interaction so early because people are eager to get out of their seats for a boogie. It’s also a nice touch for the live band to be showcased, this with the colourful lighting works well together to create the perfect party atmosphere.
The show doesn’t have a set storyline, which separates it from musicals such as Mamma Mia and Viva Forever where a story is created from the music. Adrian Grant sets out for a more concert feel and lets the music speak for itself. Not all lead vocalists dress up as Michael Jackson too, which also separates the show from a flashy tribute act.
The costume design is spot on throughout the different eras and a particular favourite is the black and gold waistcoats worn in Can You Feel It? Well done to wardrobe mistress Karli Van Heerden because these worked well against the colourful background. More importantly they looked fantastic open displaying toned torsos and six packs a plenty.
The highlight of the show is Smooth Criminal that features the original choreography from the music video. The lead singers are placed in the background as a dancer dressed as Michael impressively takes to the stage. The different ranges from each lead singer’s vocal mixed with the magical moon walking is an honour to the late star. It’s no wonder why Thriller Live is the longest running show in the Lyric Theatre’s 125-year history.
The finale of course includes the title of the show and album that’s still the world’s best selling recording of all time. Choreographer Gary Lloyd recreates the dance routine from the Thriller video with ghosts and ghouls arriving in perfect time for Halloween.
Michael Jackson has sold 750 million albums worldwide and this continues to rise. The younger generations that see Thriller Live are getting the best musical education about one of the most talented artists and performers of all time. Whilst for older generations this passionate performance is the closet they will unfortunately get to a concert from their idol, the undeniable king of pop.
GT gives it a 4/5
You can book tickets to the show here.
Words: Benjamin Spence