Thriller - Live
Adrian Grant (original concept); based on the music of Michael Jackson
Palace Theatre, Manchester
It is a feature of modern life that we raise our artistic heroes on the loftiest of pedestals, whilst simultaneously asphixiating them under our unyielding demands that exceptional creative talent must go hand-in-hand with exceptional qualities as a human being.
One day, we as a society will grow up enough to accept the difficult truth that those who create beauty may, within themselves, be far from beautiful. Whatever the truth about Michael Jackson the man (and many forget that the most recent allegations against him were thrown out of court), there is no denying Michael Jackson the musician was a treasure.
Tonight’s audience are here to celebrate and revel in the musical achievements of the late Michael Jackson—to enjoy his work without pause to reflect on the complexities of the human being who created it. Quite right.
Thriller—Live has been doing the rounds for a few years, now. If it is showing signs of flagging, neither I nor this evening’s crowd detected it. The musicianship, the dancing and the singing are still a credit to Jackson’s talent. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to watch this show and wonder how it might be to see the man himself on that stage once more…
A simple set—stairs to left and right, leading to an unfussy gangway—leaves the stage vacant for the cast to go through their paces. A wise choice. They have many paces to get through—all very fine viewing.
The choreography—so much of it based on routines from MJ’s own shows and videos—is sharp and precise. Jackson lookalike Eddy Lima leads the troupe through “Dangerous”, one of the highlights of the pre-interval set. His vocal ability may not match the other singers, but his dancing is outstanding.
Resident director Britt Quintin is an assured presence throughout—appearance-wise, it’s as if Snoop Dogg decided to do a Michael Jackson tribute. Quintin keeps the audience in the palm of his hand and, like the other singers, his moves are not shabby, either.
Five other vocalists share the load—Bizzi Dixon, Shaquille Hemmans, Adriana Louise, Rory Taylor and Ina Seidou. Each of them shines in her or his own way (although the edge in Louise’s vocal style could be better served by turning her amp up a notch).
The show is nicely weighted—room in the first half for a nostalgic trip through some of the Jackson 5’s greatest hits (“Blame it on the Boogie”, “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”, “Can You Feel It?” and others). After the break, MJ's own catalogue dominates. The list could go on and on, but a sample: “P.Y.T.”, “Bad”, “Beat It”, “Smooth Criminal”, “Earth Song”, “Billie Jean”.
Andy Jeffcoat’s band (so great to have live accompaniment) are right on the mark, with Allan Salmon on lead guitar revelling in the occasional invitation to step forward.
All this is, of course, leading up to “Thriller”. Lima again takes centre stage and, whilst the rendition is not at all disappointing, I suspect it is a little on the short side for some of the fans. No matter. A lengthy (and well-earned) curtain call with the reprise of several numbers sends the crowd home very happy.
Still plenty to thrill, here.
Reviewer: Martin Thomasson