For the second time in as many months a major West End touring production has chosen the Blackpool Grand to launch their latest nationwide tour. Hot on the heels of The Full Monty, Blackpool is now the home (for a week at least) of Thriller Live!
Thriller Live can best be described as a concert rather than a juke box musical featuring over 30 of Michael Jackson’s hits and spanning his unparalleled 45 year musical history. The show has been seen by an incredible 2.5 million people in over 26 countries, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his legend will live on in our hearts, minds and on our dance floors.
To do justice to the ‘King of Pop’ you need an incredibly talented cast, and Thriller Live delivers this in bucket loads. First of all I’d like to mention the superb band on stage. Bands and orchestras in stage shows very rarely get mentioned, even the leading annual theatre awards in London (The Oliviers) fail to recognise this imperative cog in the mechanism of a musical show. The Thriller band is led by Musical Director Mike Lindup and along with the other 5 member of the ensemble never miss a beat the whole show creating a joyous melody and seamless transitions between each musical track.
On a simple set dominated by a video wall and screen to each side of the stage the company of 19 sing and dance with such a passion, throwing everything they have got into each number. The wardrobe department on this show must be huge owing to the number of costume changes that take place in this 2 hour festival celebrating Michael Jackson, and again deserves special mention.
Leading the cast are 5 vocalists who share out the 30 plus Jackson songs pretty equally as well as harmonising on others. Sean Christopher also provides the iconic Jackson dance moves to accompany his performances bearing an uncanny likeness and mannerisms to the subject of this show. The audience erupted into spontaneous applause at their first look of the famous Moonwalk.
Shaquille Hemmans and Michael Kavuma along with vocals provide brief narratives as to the history of Jackson as we are guided through his career from the Jackson 5 until the untimely culmination of it in 2009.
There are two standout vocal performers in this production who rightly commanded the biggest ovations at the curtain call. Rory Taylor controls his voice with the dexterity not many can manage. A finalist on ITV’s Superstar Taylor has gone on to play Jesus on the Australian and UK legs of the Jesus Christ Superstar Tour. It is clear he has brought all of the experience gained in that role to Thriller with the beautiful ‘She’s Out of my Life’ being a perfect example of his vocal control.
The final vocalist on stage was Cleopatra Higgins. Best known for being part of the 90’s R&B/pop sensation Cleopatra Higgins is simply a powerhouse and delivers Jackson’s songs almost as well as he did. Her zest for life and the performance she was giving was clear to see. This girl has it all and is an absolute joy to watch on the stage.
Thriller Live stands alone in theatre, almost creating its own genre of theatre. It’s not a musical, a juke box musical nor a concert but an amalgamation of all three. If the standard reached last night is any indication this show is going to be thrilling audiences all over the country until the tour concludes in July 2016.
In the words of some of Jacksons songs, it certainly isn’t ‘Bad and you will ‘Remember the Time’ you saw this show. It is ‘Off the Wall’ and a total ‘Thriller’!
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 6th October 2015