Thriller Live at the Lyric Theatre
Thriller Live, which has just celebrated its 2000th West End show, still draws a crowd and they trilled and were thrilled as MC Britt Quentin guided them through the King of Pop’s back catalogue. The kitschiness of the show was to be expected, but Thriller Live is also surprisingly – and rather wonderfully – gay.
The first act especially is an exhibition in high camp, certain songs are performed with such festivity that they make the numbers from A Chorus Line seem like hooligan chants arising from The Den on a Saturday afternoon. This is all very entertaining, but surreal – Michael Jackson was not especially known for his affiliation with gay subculture. Spectators at times could be forgiven for thinking that they had wandered into a musical retrospective of Madonna’s or Kylie’s career, rather than Jackson’s.
Thriller Live does not have a plot; it is an undramatised, broadly chronological journey through Jackson’s career and features an array of dancers and singers performing his hits from the 1960s through to the 1990s. Certain songs work while others do not. The best are the ones featuring the main MJ (David Jordan), whose dance moves are simply extraordinary and bring to life the showmanship of the late Jackson in a way that the other performers cannot.
The main criticism has to be leveled at the set and scripting of the show, both of which are, frankly, lazy. Digital screens and tawdry lights are the extent to which the set designers have sought to embellish the production and this is a shame as generally the singers and dancers put in a good account of themselves. The main vocalists are understandably the stars of the show and perform very well – the exception being Zoe Birkett whose vocals are decidedly weaker than those of her counterparts.
While it would be unkind to the level the accusation of “trash” at Thriller Live, it is undeniably trashy. This is a show that has not cut its teeth on Broadway, and therefore has not had to meet the rather more stringent standards demanded by an American audience of musical theatre lovers. Perhaps it is indicative of a lowbrow trend emerging in the West End.
Guy de Vito
Photos: Irina Chira
Thriller Live is at the Lyric Theatre until 28th September 2014. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.
Watch a trailer for Thriller Live here: