Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Thriller Live - Darlington Civic Theatre

Thriller Live
Direction & Choreography: Gary Lloyd
Musical Supervisor & Head Arranger: John Maher
Reviewer: Ian Cain

With a plethora of musical productions based around the hits and back catalogues of pop stars or groups (just think ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Never Forget’, ‘Our House’, ‘All The Fun Of The Fair’, ‘Can’t Smile Without You’, ‘Daddy Cool’ etc, etc, etc) it was surely only a matter of time before one would showcase the work of Michael Jackson.

Jackson’s contribution to the music industry during the last quarter of the twentieth century is certainly significant, as the statistics that are projected across the screen at the back of the stage constantly remind the audience.

What differentiates this production from some others is that it doesn’t attempt to crowbar the songs into a story with only the most tenuous of plot connections. This is simply an unadulterated – although sometimes ingratiating – tribute to the work of the musical genius who is often referred to as ‘Wacko Jacko.’ That said, there is a semblance of chronological order to the piece, as it charts Michael Jackson’s rise to fame from his days as one of the Jackson 5 right up to Earth Song.

The show, from start to finish, is a high energy, high octane spectacle that incorporates more than thirty of Jackson’s best-loved numbers. They are delivered by a talented, energetic cast and are enhanced further by a live band, sensational choreography and pyrotechnics.

Tyler McLean portrays the young Jackson and his performance in numbers such as ‘ABC’ and ‘Ben’ positively oozes ‘the cute factor’ – so much so that it is easy to forgive the odd bum note.

‘Pop Idol’ graduate Hayley Evetts demonstrates her vocal worth in, amongst others, ‘I’ll Be There’ but never quite seems to integrate into the production completely, and I would question whether ‘Thriller: Live’ is the right vehicle for her. But these are minor issues in the bigger scheme of things. The music is upbeat, catchy and immensely enjoyable and you cannot help but tap your feet, click your fingers and sing along. The audience on press night in Darlington certainly had a blast!

This is a show that will delight and entertain those who were brought up in the 70s and 80s and bask in the opportunity to relive their youth. It is a fan-fest of a show that charts the highs of Jackson’s illustrious career whilst glossing over the personal scandals and set-backs of the artist who must, undoubtedly, be one of the biggest and most enigmatic conundrums that the music industry has ever encountered. Whatever you may think of Michael Jackson, be it good or bad, he is certainly an undisputed ‘Thriller.’

‘Thriller: Live’ runs at Darlington Civic Theatre until Saturday 6th June 2009.
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