Thriller Live has become a staple of the West End, opening in 2009, the same year that Michael Jackson was due to open a sell-out 50 date residency at London’s 02 Arena. The concerts never happened, and Jackson’s sudden death less than a month before opening night shocked the world. But now in it’s 10th year and having just completed its milestone 4000th performance, Thriller Live demonstrates that there’s still a tremendous fan base willing to get as close to an MJ performance as they possibly can.
To celebrate the 4000th performance, Thriller Live held a special gala night to raise funds for The Princes Trust, which saw some guest performers take to the stage. Comedian Russel Kane and impressionist Jon Culshaw acted as comperes for the evening, while Peter Andre stood in for the regular cast on several of the numbers.
Unlike similar shows, Thriller Live isn’t simply a jukebox musical, it’s a homage to the ‘world’s greatest ever showman’ recreating the style and spectacle of his live concerts. Anyone lucky enough to have seen Michael Jackson live in concert will know that he redefined live performance with spectacular stadium and arena tours. Thriller Live gives us snapshots of Jackson’s career in a concert style setting, which sees a host of talented vocalists and dancers honour Jackson at various points in his life.
The whole look is simply stunning, with LED screens creating the backdrop to those iconic songs and Nigel Catmur’s lighting making the Lyric Theatre feel like the 02 itself. It’s great to see some of Jackson’s lesser known hits featured, but it’s the ones like ‘Dirty Diana’, ‘Bille Jean’ and, of course ‘Thriller’ which get the biggest audience response.
The cast do not seek to impersonate Jackson, but their style of dress and those dance moves, from director and choreographer Gary Lloyd, are unmistakable. Kieran Alleyne most resembles the man himself when in full costume, and delivers a breathtaking set. Vivienne Ekwulugo and Haydon Eshun are also particularly strong, and the young vocalists portraying Michael in his early years do an outstanding job.
For this one night only, Peter Andre stepped in to cover some of the numbers, and he was flawless, after delivering a very moving ‘She’s Out of My Life’ he had the audience at fever pitch with an incredible rendition of ‘Man in the Mirror’.
Even casual fans of the King of Pop, Rock and Soul will be amazed by the way Thriller Live can evoke the awe and wonderment which goes hand in hand with every Michael Jackson number, while die-hard fans will be in their glory as they come as close as possible to the real thing. The party like atmosphere that is created makes this show more of a celebration than a tribute, it’s tremendous fun of epic proportions, and is sure to keep moonwalking through the West End for a long time to come.