Thriller Live, Lyric Theatre, London
Monday 26 January 2009
Is it a musical? Is it just a juke-box compilation show? Do we expect narrative complexity in our new musical theatre? Is there a life for pop music within the proscenium arch beyond Mamma Mia!? Or shall we resort to revivals of Sondheim and hope for the best from Andrew Lloyd Webber?
All of these thoughts go racing through your mind – well, actually, they don't – when sitting through this immensely enjoyable compilation of the Michael Jackson catalogue. Somehow Jackson, and his sibling quintet, passed me by, as they happened, but now I'm suddenly all grooved up on the Jackson Five and the high points of Michael's best-selling discs.
This is great stuff. It makes you want to move around in your seat. I did do that and nearly got arrested for moving around in the seat right next to me. Not my fault. We had to get up and get down in an audience participation re-tread of "Shake Your Body", and some of us did.
Others resisted. One irate critic even berated the great Tito Jackson (the bass player) for turning up late at his own show. What else was he supposed to do? We thought Janet might show, but she didn't. We made do instead with a whole host of television celebs, Vanessa Feltz as well as Girls Aloud and actors from Hollyoaks. And then we all had to join in a number called "Get On the Floor". Enough said.
It's a shame that Gary Lloyd's production has no theatrical justification whatsoever, but the presentation is so enjoyably theatrical that the objection disintegrates. There's a wonderful catalogue of late Motown, blues and early indie rock that covers a whole era of pop music at its best.
It's all laid down with tremendous funk and fusion of lights, sound and dance moves. The onstage musicians under John Maher supply great backing for the company numbers and the fantastic solo contributions of Ricko Baird as the "Thriller" doppelgänger, Ben Foster and John Moabi as the Jackson singers, Denise Pearson as the soul mamma of Motown, and cute Kieran Alleyne as the sly, devilish little Jacko.
There's an excruciating speech towards the end invoking JFK, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. This is followed by an "Earth Song" with everyone dressed in white. The show is worth seeing all the same.
To 12 April (0844 412 4661; www.nimaxtheatres.com/thriller)
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees