Thriller Live Review
The Bristol Hippodrome
Monday 15 – Saturday 20th February 2016
Thriller Live is a long-running, record-breaking West End show which has now taken in excess of $150 million at the global box office and overtaken Evita to become the 17th Longest Running West End Musical of all time.
It’s another new show for us and before I begin, I’ll declare that, although I know and like many of his songs and appreciated his uniqueness as a performer, I wasn’t Michael Jackson’s hugest fan. His music punctuated the musical timeline of my youth though and I recall liking his number one hit ‘Ben’ and watching The Jackson 5 cartoons on TV as a child and in later years stacking greetings cards to the beat of Billie Jean on the radio at my teenage Saturday job.
Thriller Live Review
Thriller Live begins and soon the stage fills with dancers and strobing lights. The set features scaffolding on both sides, two staircases, a large screen at the rear and extensive lighting.
Two presenters explain that they’re going to take us back through time to relive Michael Jackson’s musical career. The Jackson 5 are booming (although why there are only three singers on stage we can’t be sure!) later becoming The Jacksons. There’s no story as the historical sequence is the vehicle for the music.
In advance of the show I’d anticipated a Jackson lookalike taking centre stage but in fact there are four lead male vocalists, some of whom bear absolutely no resemblance to the star’s looks, such as Rory Taylor, a caucasian singer with a skin head! Female artist Angelica Allen is the main soloist at Monday’s press night and bears a close resemblance to Michael’s trademark voice.
Part way through the first act, a presenter introduces the dancers and the band who are positioned at the rear of the stage.
We’re invited to stand up and participate in a left hand side versus right hand side audience volume contest and while this gets the crowd involved and is great for giants like me, it isn’t too handy for those near us in wheelchairs or for my seven and nine year old who now can’t see anything!
The passage through history gives plenty of scope for costume changes from colourful spangly disco get-ups in Shake Your Body to Egyptian costumes in Remember the Time, gangster suits in Dangerous and that single white glove.
I find parts of the first act uninspiring, in fact I’m a little bored at times. I realise that this is probably down to personal taste, as disco and Motown music just don’t excite me but it perks right up during the fabulous synchronised, jerky male dancing sequence in the gangster scene. Amongst other things there’s a fair amount of impressive squatting going on, suggesting these guys have thighs of steel! While the male dancers get to show off some interesting moves, their female counterparts don’t. The men definitely have the best dances at this point while the women seem to spend a lot of time gyrating and generally strutting around looking sexy for the boys. Roll on feminism . . .
By the end of act one, the party’s definitely started. Don’t stop till You Get Enough and Can you Feel It lead us enthusiastically to the interval complete with somersaults and a riot of colours and glitter! A strong end to act one.
Following the interval we’re treated to huge numbers like Beat It, Thriller and Bad. Once again the musicians are acknowledged as the guitarist performs a solo centre stage.
Numbers like The Way You Make Me Feel treat us to a range of dance styles from ballet to moon-walking and in Smooth Criminal the female dancers join the men, coming into their own with great dance performances.
After a serious and thoughtful interlude featuring songs like They Don’t Care About Us and Earth Song, the show goes out on a high with what surely has to be one of the longest encores ever.
Despite not being able to see some of it and recognising very little of the music, the boys love it. I’ve resorted to letting them stand on their coats on the poor Hippodrome seats as they would have missed a fair bit of the show otherwise. By the end of the show at gone 10pm my seven year old is high clapping along with the best of them!
I enjoy the fact that the band is celebrated and we are offered sneaky peeks of them throughout the show.
The dance performances are a big part of the show and are much more attractive to watch when both the male and females are given strong choreography. Some of the numbers are an absolute joy to watch.
I like the fact that Thriller Live is brave enough not to try to cobble together a flimsy plot and admits that this is simply a history of Michael Jackson’s musical career.
I’d definitely say this is a show of two parts and would like to see some of the energy and vibrancy from act two injected into parts of act one, but perhaps that’s not possible because Michael Jackson’s music simply became more exciting as he and it evolved over the years.
Cast and Credits
Thriller Live, choreographed and directed by award-winning Gary Lloyd, was originally conceived and created by Adrian Grant, a long time associate of Michael Jackson, and author of Michael Jackson – The Visual Documentary. It’s produced by Paul Walden and Derek Nicol for Flying Music in association with Adrian Grant for Key Concerts.
Monday 15th – Saturday 20th February
Fri@ 5:00pm & 8:30pm
Sat@4:00pm & 8:00pm
Tickets from £19.65
Concessions available at certain performances
DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW.
ALL OPINIONS ARE MY/OUR OWN.