Thriller Live The Festival theatre Edinburgh 2018  Review Monday 14th May 2018

Thriller Michael Jackson stage show edinburgh 2014

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“Thriller Live”, the touring stage show from “Flying Music” dedicated to the music of Michael Jackson, returns to The Festival Theatre Edinburgh  (Mon 14 to Sat 19 May) as part of its 2018 tour. I have seen this show a few times now, and although the show always sticks to a rigid and well proven format, it is so well done that I keep returning to watch it.

“Thriller Live” avoids the obvious pitfalls of a show like this by wisely not concentrating on one Michael Jackson impersonator to try and give the illusion of a concert, and instead, six completely different singers give us vocal and visual takes on Michael Jackson’s music.

Vocalist: Sean Christopher

Vocalist: Shaquille Hemmans

Vocalist: Eddy Lima

Vocalist: Adriana Louise

Vocalist: Ina Seidou

Vocalist: Rory Taylor

Backing up our vocalists is a good team of dancers, the always impressive “Thriller Live band” and some very good technical stage visuals.  This production from “Flying Music” is a stage show that through careful attention to detail, on stage talents, and being prepared to spend the money to do the job properly, lifts this production well outside of the normal “tribute act” circuit.  If you want to spend an evening with an impersonator pretending to be Michael at every movement then this is not the show for you.  If on the other hand, you want to see a show that celebrates in style the musical legacy of Michael Jackson then this definitely is a show not to miss.

It is hard to believe that approaching ten years have passed since Michael Jackson died (25th June 2009), but in his lifetime, a recording career spanning some 40 years or so gave the world some incredible music and one of the most individual performers in pop music history.  This show pretty much covers all the main hits from the early Jackson Five years on Motown to the very end.  As usual though, the Motown years are run through quickly in a musical montage, and that is always a little issue with me as there are some great songs here by some of the best writers and producers that Motown had at the time, and “I’ll Be There” (written by Hal Davis, Berry Gordy, Willie Hutch and Bob West) is still one of my favourite songs of all time. This show of course concentrates firmly on the unbelievably successful later solo years of Michael Jackson, and there are so many iconic songs still to be put into the show I admit there simply is not time to concentrate on the early Jackson Five years.  Perhaps some longstanding copyright and name ownership issues may also play their parts in this decision too.

Although there are songs before, and songs after, the bulk of this show concentrates on the hits from three amazing albums – “Off The Wall, “Thriller” and “Bad”.  The sales figures of any one of these albums alone are amazing, but put together they are pop music milestones that will take a very long time (if ever) for someone to beat.  It is not just about sales figures though, these albums really need to be viewed in retrospect for their achievements, and this show lets us do that as our vocalists, backed with very good choreography, sets and visuals take us through iconic songs including “Off the Wall”, “Thriller”, “Bad”, “Billie Jean”, “Beat it”, “Smooth Criminal” and so many more. What these three iconic albums also clearly show though is the undeniable contribution that co-producer Quincy Jones made to the musical sounds and global success of Michael Jackson as a recording and a performance artist.  Quincy Jones is one of the musical geniuses of his generation and was just as important to the Michael Jackson story as George Martin was to The Beatles story.

All of our songs tonight are given very individual approaches by our very different vocalists, and female vocals to some of the songs not only make an interesting sound contrast, but at times give an entirely different viewpoint to the lyrics of the song – “The Way You Make Me Feel” being one of them.  Interesting to me too to see clearly on stage here that once you isolate the very distinctive guitar sounds of Slash from “Black or White”, just how close in feel and sound to a much earlier Jackson Five track Michael was getting on this song.  As always, Rory Taylor is a vocal surprise.  Somehow, you just do not expect a voice like this from first visual  appearances, and that is in itself part of the magic of this show, and also part of the personal philosophy of Michael Jackson himself – never judge people by first appearances.

To keep a show this “live” though you need performers that have the ability to engage very quickly with their audience and keep that engagement level and the energy levels of the show up all night, and this cast have that ability.

In the end though, six completely different vocalists on stage giving us music in so many different styles and reminding us that one man alone “Michael Jackson” performed them all.

A little trivia note though folks –“Blame It On The Boogie” was not written by any of the Jacksons, but co-written by English songwriter Mick Jackson with hopes of selling it to Stevie Wonder, and it came along at just the right time for “The Jacksons”.

The cast may change, but the high production standards of this show always remain. To find out more about this show, its performers, and other productions from “Flying Music” go to

http://www.flyingmusic.com/our-shows/thriller-live/

 

Review by Tom King

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