More Britain's Got Talent than Bashir, this music-focused production doesn't fail to thrill
Michael Jackson’s contributions to popular culture over the four decades of his illustrious career are unparalleled. His distinctive vocal style, dance, and fashion have inspired generations of future artists to create their own masterpieces, from Kanye West to, er, Bo Selecta, often in direct tribute to the late King of Pop.
It goes without saying that his eccentric behaviour has defined him as a particularly divisive figure.
From accruing $270million worth of debt to maintain his theme park home, to receiving multiple allegations of child abuse, to dangling babies off Berlin balconies, Jackson’s malfeasances became as synonymous with the man as his trademark white glove and fedora hat. No prizes for guessing which they decided to make the subject of the souvenirs on the foyer merch stall.
Thriller Live takes the audience on an audio-visual tour through Jackson’s career, in a rare chance to separate Michael Jackson the performer from Michael Jackson the problematic media circus.
As if to demonstrate his versatility as an artist, four lead vocalists comprise the vocal cast, along with a ten-strong dance troupe, and MJ impersonator Sean Christopher. Despite being billed as lead vocalist, Christopher’s role is essentially a mime artist. A spectacular mime artist, all the same. He moves around the stage like the King reincarnate, with impeccable mannerisms right down to facial ticks between trademark moves.
He even looks like Michael. Well...one version of him.The production team has chosen to style their star around the Smooth Criminal-era Jackson, placing him at around a 6 on the official “Michael Jackson Pantone scale”, which ranges from Michael Jackson to Michael Jackson.
The other four vocalists are nothing short of flawless, from the gritty tones of DIrty Diana to the nasal resonance of The Way You Make Me Feel. Rory Taylor - resembling a punk-rock Al Murray - was a stand-out audience favourite, giving an outstanding rendition of She’s Out Of My Life.
Despite some sloppy choreography when the cast is moving in unison, there are some exceptional moments which demonstrate the dancers’ individual talents. Savanna Darnell and Jordan Palmer shine as athletes on the stage, whereas Emily Golding-Ellis and Anthony Morgan bring out heaps of character in their performances. Peter Cleverley can pull off a mean backflip, and he does so throughout the night.
Gaudy visuals and some ill-fitting costumes give the show more of a “Michael Jackson Week” on X Factor feel than an objective and nuanced representation of a troubled artist’s life and times, but it doesn’t try to be: it says right there in black and white, this is a show designed to thrill. If it’s an entertaining evening of singing and dancing you’re looking for, you can’t beat it.