Thriller Live is in its essence a jukebox musical of singalong hits from the ‘King of Pop’ and, being a huge Michael Jackson fan, I was eagerly anticipating a great night of classic tracks and slick dance routines.
From the outset it is clear that this is different to other pop driven musicals such as Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You as the show is more of a tribute concert with very little narrative content other than a few cheesy introductions which, for the most part, are wholly unnecessary and just detract away from the slick production.
The voice of Michael Jackson throughout the numerous hits is provided by no less than five lead vocalists, who each add their own style to the production. These include the highly impressive local pop sensation, Cleopatra Higgins, who as the only female lead provides a stunning and effortless take on many of Jackson’s hits. Rory Taylor steals the show in terms of vocal performance as he belts out many of the more rock driven hits such as Dirty Diana and Beat It whilst his version of She’s Out of My Life finally brought some much needed emotion to the shows first half which at times felt flat.
As tends to be the case with musicals of this genre the second half took on a life of its own transforming into the show that I, and most of the audience, had hoped for. Hit after hit of the best of Michael Jackson’s back catalogue were reeled out and thankfully less and less of the needless sugar-coated introductions. Hats off to Choreographer and Director, Gary Lloyd who has not only staged a masterpiece befitting the music legend but also managed to provide an edge to many routines even Jackson would have applauded. Jonathan Park’s set design, combined with Nigel Catmur’s lighting, is simple but effective with huge LED lighting providing just the right mood for each song and helping to transport the audience from the early days of Motown to the heady days of 80s disco.
The reprise of the famous Motown 25 routine of Billie Jean, complete with full stage moonwalk, is worth the admission price alone and as the encore approaches the hits ramp up and have everyone in the auditorium dancing in the aisles.
If you are looking for a show that will tax your mind and take you on an emotional roller coaster then Thriller Live is not for you but if you’re a fan of timeless pop music and feel good theatre then the remarkable career of Michael Jackson provides the perfect backdrop for a night of pure family entertainment.
Runs at Manchester’s Opera House until 23rd January