Thriller Live

October 29, 2014 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆   Smooth operation

Festival Theatre: Mon 27 Oct – Sat 1 Nov 2014

Tight as a drum, the national tour of Thriller Live circles back round to Edinburgh, calling in for a week at the Festival Theatre with a fresh crop of young things ready to bring the music of Michael Jackson to life.

A scene from Thriller Live

A scene from Thriller Live

Forget the controversies of Jackson’s troubled life – mentioned only once in passing – or even the actualities. This is all about the music and the dancing, about creating some kind of approximation to the thrill of Jackson live.

Setting off at a considerable lick, the show opens with bubble-gum songs from the Jackson Five focussing on ABC and their four consecutive number ones. It dips into their disco years, drops into something Dangerous then settles into a run-through of hits from Off the Wall – starting with a fabulous take on She’s Out of My Life.

It takes the vocal talents of five singers to recreate Jackson’s vocals live on stage. They are led by Wayne Robinson who provides a touch of narrative to give the barest of outlines to the story of the Jackson family.

J Rome excels in the Jackson Five routines and has a naturally dominating presence on stage. Sean Christopher cuts an enigmatic figure, never quite up with the vocals but flaunting the best Jackson impersonation, while Alex Buchanan goes the other way – bringing the vocal ticks to his performance, but not so much the moves.

beyond vocal impressions

It is Deborah Dada who is the revelation of the five. She has an icy demeanour in the first half, singing through thin-stretched lips with seeming disdain writ large across her face. Yet she really opens up in the second half, bringing more of her own personality to her voice as she goes beyond vocal impressions.

A scene from Thriller Live

A scene from Thriller Live

If the five give solidly entertaining vocal performances, it is the dancers who bring the show to life. Not quite with the knife-edge precision that Michael Jackson was capable of at his best, but certainly creating the feeling that this is a lean, finely-tuned, Dancing Machine, using his signature moves to create a flamboyant and entertaining party vibe to the whole piece.

As the second half builds through hits from Bad and Thriller to climax with Earth Song, the routines echo the big budget videos which went with the hits. That is echo, not replicate – although hard-worked video walls help create the ambience of the originals.

The real wow moment is the 45 degree lean from Smooth Criminal. While director and choreographer Gary Lloyd obviously believes you can never have too much moon walking.

And of course, this being more a gig than theatre, the end of Earth Song is only the signal for the beginning of the encores. How could it not be so: neither Billie Jean nor Thriller having made an appearance.

With members of the well-drilled band strutting out onto the stage from their onstage nest, this just keeps on building, with solid, on-your-feet versions of songs which have defined several generations.

All told a great night out – which seems to have become even better drilled on its journey, even though the constantly rotating cast is likely to change from one night to the next.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Monday 27 October – Saturday 1 November 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm, Sat matinee: 3.30pm.
Further details and tickets from: www.edtheatres.com/thriller
Tour website: www.thrillerlive.com/uk-tour/

Æ’s review of the April 2013 production of Thriller Live: alledinburghtheatre.com/review-thriller-live/

Thriller Live on tour 2014:
27 Oct – 1 Nov Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
3 – 8 November Bradford
Alhambra
01274 432 000 Book online
11 – 15 November Wolverhampton
Grand Theatre
01902 429212 Book online

ENDS

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