Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Musical: Thriller Live

Original Concept Adrian Grant
Director and Choreographer Gary Lloyd
Musical Director John Maher
Featuring MiG Ayesa, Alex Buchanan, Sean Christopher, Samantha Johnson and Tyrone Lee
Crown Theatre
Until December 21

One of the very few things the shameless Michael Jackson: The Immortal – an exploitation of the late King of Pop by his family and Cirque du Soleil that cleaned up at the Perth Arena last year – got right was its name.
There are Jackson tributes of one kind or another all over the place, and I don’t doubt we’ll be seeing them from here to eternity.
Short of reincarnation, though, Thriller Live, the latest tribute show to arrive in Perth, is what Jackson’s fans want, and it’s easy to see why.

The show grew from an annual fan celebration in the UK that has been staged since 1991 by the impresario Adrian Grant.
Jackson gave it his imprimatur by attending its 10th anniversary, and a YouTube clip of him on stage with Grant then is extremely touching.
What you get now is pretty much every song you’d expect from Jackson’s vast hit repertoire in something like chronological order, interrupted only occasionally by a very perfunctory narrative.
The numbers are performed by five strong lead vocalists (on this night MiG Ayesa, Alex Buchanan, Sean Christopher, Samantha Johnson and Tyrone Lee) and 10 or so dancers, backed by a superb, note-perfect, five-piece band, led by musical director John Maher.
There’s no fixation on mimicking Jackson’s vocal performances. In fact the two encore showstoppers, Billie Jean and Thriller, are mimed by Christopher to allow him to do an impressive spin around their famous dance moves. Most of the choreography is unmistakeably British – more Pan’s People than Soul Train.
Sure, there are times the show feels like one of those Top Eight production medleys on American Idol, and portraying Jackson as political activist (They Don’t Care about Us) or environmentalist (Earth Song) wander close to mawkishness.
The set, designed by Jonathan Park and lit by Nigel Catmur, is efficiency cleverly masquerading as spectacle: the whole show, directed and choreographed with ruthless precision by Gary Lloyd, is much smaller than it looks and sounds.
Its backers must be impressed with the bottom line their creative team have delivered. It’s a business as well as a show, so more power to them for it.
And then there are all those incredible songs, done justice, all things considered, by the skill and commitment of this production.
Sadly, Thriller Live can’t make Michael Jackson Immortal, but it impressively shows why he is the King of Pop.

This review appeared in The West Australian 15.12.14  

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