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Thriller live: West End show reviewed

I’ve remembered seeing posters for Thriller Live on the tube pretty much ever since I’ve moved to the UK so some time ago.

Being a massive Michael Jackson fan myself, I’ve decided to finally go and see what the fuss was about. Needless to say, expectations were high. The show traces Jackson’s rise to fame and roughly follows his musical chronology, from the early Jackson 5 era through to Thriller, Bad and Dangerous.

All the greatest hits were played, and it’s only once I looked them up afterwards that I realised a couple of songs I’d have liked to hear. For instance, I would’ve happily swapped the ridiculous Earth Song for Another Part of Me or You Rock My World. Nerdy MJ fan talk aside, the selection was virtually spot on given the number of classics that ought to be performed.

thumb-rollovers_0008_Lean-948x410The routines and dancers were great, incorporating all the notorious signature moves along with a twist of modern dance which fitted right in. One can imagine the hip-hop influence would be prominent in a modern MJ gig, and the show reflected that. Likewise many of the classic costumes featured, along with original ones inspired by the colorful, sparkling fashion which famously characterised MJ’s choice of outfits. The band were excellent too.

Zayn Johnson, the boy who played the young Jackson showed remarkable cheekiness, attitude and stage presence for his age. The standard of singing was high all round, with Trenyce Cobbins a notable stand out. Dajiow, that’s the dude on the poster, looked disturbingly similar to MJ from distance, both in appearance and in mannerism. His full performance of Billie Jean, sung live with the full routine was a personal highlight.

thumb-rollovers_0013_Copy-of-Dangerous-Heartbreak-Hotel-5-948x410The stand out performances for me were Smooth Criminal – although I missed the lean because we sat too high! – as well as Man in the Mirror and They Don’t Care About Us. And of course, Thriller was performed in full spirit. The show was enjoyable and got better and better as people got more into it. And by people, I mean me.

In terms of what I would’ve changed, it would’ve been nice to have a little more of a narrative. Having said that, it would’ve probably come at the cost of less performance time so I can understand why this was done.

When you’re sat so high you can almost touch the ceiling..

While the comparison isn’t really a fair one, at times I felt the cast suffered the contrast with the ‘real thing’. This was particularly the case during some of the more emotional songs, which were well sung but lacked the soul and personal touch which often comes with performing one’s own material, as just not being Michael Jackson.

Our seats were definitely way too high as well. I was quite excited about being on the balcony but as we were on the very top, we missed the occasional bit going on near the top of the stage – like the lean. That was a bit shit.

All in all I had a really good evening, and spent more time standing up singing along than I expected. There was a great atmosphere of celebration, and most people properly joined in – although I’m pretty sure I pissed off some kid sat next to me by shouting too much. Oh well.

Thriller Live is exactly what you expect, in a good way: a dynamic, upbeat tribute to one of the greatest entertainers of all time. The King of Pop would undoubtedly appreciate.


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