Review – Thriller Live

Apr 30 2013 | By More

★★★☆☆   High notes hit

Edinburgh Playhouse Mon 29 April – Sat 4 May 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

Great songs and a killer dance troupe, with some punchy routines to get their limbs around, ensure that this tribute to the music of Michael Jackson has a bunch of great high notes to hit.

Those looking for a musical biography of the life and times of the King of Pop aren’t in for a great night. This covers the expected musical bases, from the Motown number ones of the Jackson Five to 70s Disco and Jackson’s three top selling solo albums, but the personal details are missing.

Thriller - London cast production shot. Photo credit Irina Chira

Thriller Live. London cast production shot. Photo credit Irina Chira

Neither is it a look-alike version of a Michael Jackson gig – at least not until the finale when lead dancer Michael Duke finally gets to blend his moves with his vocal prowess.

In fact, it takes a quintet of singers to do what what Jackson would have done himself – a sextet if you include Emmanuel Sakyi who performs as the eleven year-old Michael. And, despite some obvious difficulties keeping exactly in tune, last night’s packed Playhouse audience would certainly include young master Sakyi.

Yet it is the dancers and backing band behind the singers which really make the show hum, particularly in the first half. The crisp, onstage band put a real thrum into the music, picking up all the styles with ease, and providing a solid, pumping backbone to the turns on stage.

The dancers are the real stars of the half, though. Not so much in their interpretations of Jackson’s own moves, clean and precise though these are, but in their full-blooded commitment to the choreography. There’s so much energy on stage that it’s exhausting watching them – and while there is a lot of individual movement going on, when a unison drill is called for, there is real discipline there.

A buzz to the choreography

While the first half is all the Jacksons (or the Jackson 5) and Off the Wall, the second half fixes itself around Thriller and Bad. Once again, the performances are upstaged by their material. And once again, that is more a reflection on the quality of the material than a lack of quality in the performances, although you feel that with numbers like The Way You Make Me Feel, I Just Can’t Stop Loving You and P.Y.T. on offer, somehow one of the singers should have made a song their own.

Thriller Live - London cast production shot. Photo credit Irina Chira

Thriller Live. London cast production shot. Photo credit Irina Chira

Beat It provides a big uplift, early in the half, however. There’s much more of a buzz to the choreography, thanks to the legacy of the video, but it takes a half dozen numbers before the slightly cosy feel to the night fully evaporates and the company really get to stretch in Smooth Criminal, once again throwing many moves in from the video – including a nifty 45 degree lean – quickly followed by Dirty Diana.

And then, just as the night feels as if it is going to dissipate on a cloud of good will, with Jackson’s caring side held up in Man in the Mirror, They Don’t Care About Us and Heal the World, the company come back with the cracking combination of Billie Jean, Thriller and Bad.

And for all that this is a production which plays to an audience who know their stuff, it is the biggest numbers out of Michael Jackson’s big bag of big numbers that really get them on their feet.

Running time 2 hours 30 mins
Run ends Saturday 4 May 2013.
Full details on Playhouse website:

Thriller Live on Tour 2013:

29 Apr-4 May Edinburgh
Playhouse Theatre
0131 524 3333 Book online
6-11 May Sunderland
Empire Theatre
0191 566 1040 Book online
13-18 May Eastbourne
Congress Theatre
01323 412000 Book online
23-28 Sep Belfast
Grand Opera House
028 9024 1919 Book online
30 Sep-5 Oct Bristol
Bristol Hippodrome
0844 871 3012 Book online
7-12 Oct Cardiff
New Theatre
029 2087 8889 Book online
14-19 Oct Blackpool
Grand Theatre
01253 290190 Book online
28 Oct- 2 Nov Northampton
Royal & Derngate
01604 624811 Book online
4-9 Nov York
Grand Opera House
0844 847 2322 Book online
2-7 Dec Southampton
Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
17 Dec – 5-Jan-14 Birmingham
The ICC, Hall 1
0121 345 0600 Book online


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