To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about this show as, like many people, I have grown up with Michael Jackson and his music from his very early days (listening to those very early singles and watching the original Jackson 5 cartoon show), and the fact that Michael was such a unique performer it would not take much to make this a "bad tribute show". Thankfully, a few minutes into the show and I knew that they were going to do this right and treat Michael Jackson and his music with the respect it deserves. It is obvious all the way through this show that everyone involved here is pleased to be part of a show that just celebrates and shares the life of a performer and his music.
The show starts at the very beginning with songs such as ABC and I'll Be There and goes all the way through to the global hits of later years. The songs of Michael Jackson are performed over the show by several vocalists - including Alex Buchanan, Wayne Robinson, Sean Christopher, J Rome and Deborah Dada. Each has a completely different vocal style and this avoids what could easily have been a simple tribute show if only one singer had been on stage. Let's not forget of course that they can all dance too. Watching completely different vocalists (in vocal styles and appearance) only reminded me of just how unique Michael Jackson was as he so effortlessly created music in so many styles and genres.
You can not of course have a "Thriller" show without the dancers, and these dancers worked for their art tonight. This is a very busy show with a lot of music to be covered by a fairly small crew of dancers who are on stage most of the show. Working out dance routines to cover the many periods covered in this show and still making everything look "up to date for an audience" must have been difficult, but they have managed it.
The singers and dancers are all helped tonight in this show by a very good set and some very good lighting and visuals. This is a show that has spent some serious time and money on the stage visuals and they are as much a part of the show as the singing and dancing.
Another big plus for me tonight is that this show has a real live band. This show could very easily have taken the easy and probably much cheaper route of just having pre-recorded music, but thankfully they did not. This is a great show with great singers, dancers and band. I know there are probably good set design reasons for this, but I would have been happy to see this great band more prominently out there on stage (they are cleverly behind some visual screens for most of the show).
Strangely, for the title of the show, the one set piece I would have liked to have been longer was Thriller. What there was outstanding though and if you are in the front rows for a performance then you will get a very good view of some of the "Thrillers".
All of the music that you would expect to be here is here. This is just a fun show and for me it reminded me of just how many Michael Jackson songs I had half forgotten. I mean that with no disrespect to the music or memory of Michael Jackson, but when you grow up with an artist who has produced music over such a long period of time, it just sort of blends into your musical background. It is sometimes only sadly when a performer is no longer with us and you see a show like this, that you realise just what they have left the world.
Go and see this one, it is only at the Festival Theatre until Saturday 1st November.
Review by Tom King