After being performed for 11 years in over 30 different countries, Thriller – Live came to the Palace Theatre on Monday night to deliver two hours of breath-taking entertainment dedicated to the life works of Michael Jackson. This musical journey will leave you covered in goosebumps and wanting more.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when the show opened with a pumped-up Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough/Billie Jean remix, I knew we were in for a treat.
Whilst the setlist is not chronological, the audience is taken on a spectacular adventure beginning with the early Jackson 5 hits such as Who’s Loving You, I Want You Back, ABC and Rockin’ Robin. The dynamics onstage matched the same exuberance and energy that made the Jackson 5 so trailblazing, and it was very refreshing to see.
We were then launched into a stream of Jackson hits, such as a raunchy rendition of Human Nature, a swoon-worthy Dangerous, and a Rock With You so suave that I felt like I had been plucked out of the room and thrown into the midst of the 80s disco scene. It was so fun, and the stamina from the cast was incredible – the immaculacy and intricacy of the non-stop choreography was pretty impressive. The true MJ spirit was embodied with grace and clarity, and the replication of trademark moves, particularly the unparalleled moonwalk, was awe-inspiring.
Alongside the show-stopping performances of the more upbeat hits, ballads such as She’s Out Of My Life brought the audience back down to earth – and gave the dance crew a much-earned breather. I did have a slight inkling that some of the vocals were being lip synced (by a guy strangely not named in the cast list), but I was still basking in the adrenaline of the dance numbers too much to care. Oddly, it was the vocals from the unrelenting, all-singing, all-dancing superhuman cast-members that seemed most genuine.
The first act drew to a close, and I began to notice just how many youngsters were in the crowd, with one boy no older than 5 or 6 having his picture taken by the stage in an adorable fedora and silver glove. The majority of the audience, though, was comprised of adults much older than myself, and we even overheard strangers in the toilets getting genuinely excited over the fact that they attended the same Michael Jackson concerts decades ago.
Throughout the entire performance, I was wishing so badly that I could have experienced the real deal and the incredible, undefeated music produced by the Jacksons and the likes in that era. Jackson’s music transcends time and genre, touching and inspiring emotion in people of all ages everywhere, and I don’t doubt that his legacy will remain for a very long time.
The pace picked up considerably in the second act, and hits such as P.Y.T, The Way You Make Me Feel and Smooth Criminal were executed with the same exhilaration and precision as Act 1. The last few songs were undoubtedly the highlight of the performance, with Billie Jean (one of my all-time favourite songs – I convinced myself that I was seeing it first-hand, and I felt like a 15-year-old fan girl again), Thriller, Bad and Black and White stealing the show.
I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe or blink for fear of missing a second of the captivating choreography. If that’s the closest I’m ever going to get to experiencing some of the greatest songs of all time live, then I’m happy. My one complaint would be that the cast forced everyone to get on their feet and sing – but not for long enough! I appreciate the age difference, but a bit of reciprocated energy from the crowd would not have gone amiss. Dance! Sing! It’s the King of Pop! Sort of.
The crew comprises an eclectic range of talented young people, with an extraordinary array of notable achievements between them, with lead male vocalists and dancers Kieran Alleyne (third place on The X Factor 2016), Jason Brock, Shaquille Hemmans, Joseph Thomas and Britt Quentin (who bears striking resemblance to Michael himself) paying exceptional tribute. The leading women, Ceante Harris, who has provided vocals for The Black Eyed Peas and CeeLo Green, and Adriana Louise, oozed passion and star quality.
For perhaps the first half of the show, I was half expecting some of Michael’s personal struggles and achievements to be explored, and his life-story told in more detail. But I quickly realised that this is not intended to be a theatrical biopic. To do so would detract from all a show like this needs to be – simply a star-studded, sparkly show of appreciation for the greatest entertainer of all time, with intermittent mentions of Michael’s discography milestones.
Covering everything from disco, pop and R&B to rock to Motown, there’s something in this show for everyone. Michael’s ethos of unity and youthful optimism is portrayed beautifully in this literally ‘thrilling’ showcase of some of the most generation-defining music ever written.