Walking into Thriller Live, there were two things that were evident. Firstly, the median age of the Lyric Theatre’s audience was 35 at best. Secondly, I was in a MJ fanatical crowd, the likes of which I had never experienced before. Fortunately before I had time to properly process the thriller zombies seated to my left and the fedora wearing Smooth Criminals to my right, the stage lit up and the show began.
In short, Thriller Live is a Michael Jackson tribute. Though a number of people entered the show expecting a story to link together all the songs, what was on display was a dazzling and solid concert experience rarely seen from jukebox tribute shows. Squashing over 30 songs into two and a half hours, the finale product is radiant and fun.
Featuring songs from platinum selling albums Thriller, Off The Wall, History and Bad, the show includes a number of singers taking centre stage to perform from Jackson’s huge catalogue of music. ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’, ‘Can You Feel It’ and ‘Man In The Mirror’ are undoubtedly standouts and bring the audience to their feet, while the encore, despite its greatness, is overlong.
Though the entire cast is vocally diverse and strong, performer Alex Buchanan steals the show for his perfect rendition of Jacksons voice and his control over his vocals, moving from low to high in an instant. Prinnie Stevens is also stupendous in her role and admittedly the selling point of the show. Without Buchanan and Stevens, the show would go under the radar and lack the grandeur the performance requires. Likewise every male dancer excels on stage, surpassing the female dancers in many musical numbers.
Unfortunately the main criticism of the show is not the performance itself but choice of venue. Thriller Live is a concert and deserves a performance space that can play to its skills. In the restrictive space of the theatre, members of the audience were unable to get up and dance along to the songs as they wish, and as a result, it’s harder to involve the audience more in the show. Rounding out the performers is the amazing band who plays every MJ hit with precise skill. The stage props and production help enhance the shows quality, albeit seem cheap looking.
Despite all, the songs pull the crowd to its feet and has the entire theatre clapping along. It’s a fun time celebrating the iconic music of Michael Jackson and all the performers bring energy to the stage in the exact way the King of Pop did. Though clearly targeted at Jackson fans, it’s easy to embrace the catchy songs and get involved in the whole show. Lacking the rawness of a live pop show, Thriller Live still succeeds to please die-hard MJ fans as well as the uninitiated and works as a fun and simple tribute concert.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Originally published on BULL Magazine, March 2, 2015.