‘Cos This Is Thriller!
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Winchester Today’s Beccy Conway watches ‘Thriller Live’ at the Mayflower, Southampton – Monday July 18th
It’s been seven years since the untimely death of Michael Jackson, but it seems fans are unwavering in their love of the King of Pop. Southampton is the final stop of the Thriller Live tour so grab your tickets now if you’re in the mood for some musical nostalgia.
The show kicks off with a medley of early hits from both the Jackson 5 and Michael himself, immediately getting the audience clapping and singing along, quite a mean feat for a weekday evening. It’s clear straight away that the lead vocalists Shaquille Hemmans, Rory Taylor, Tyrone Lee, and most notably Cleopatra Higgins are exceptional. Jackson’s infamous sound lends itself to being covered by a female singer and Cleopatra’s soulful voice is electrifying. Sean Christopher earns delighted whoops of approval each time he moonwalks on stage as MJ himself.
Unlike other comparable productions, such as Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You which have adapted the musical works of bands or artists for the theatrical stage, Thriller Live does not follow a fictional narrative. Instead we are taken through a brief but genuinely engaging history of Motown, Disco and beyond, and Jackson’s crucial place within the canon, as we’re entertained by powerful, stripped back vocal renditions and raucous full-cast performances.
The remaining cast is made up of around ten dancers who encapsulate four decades of dance and music during the two and a half hour show. Fast-paced and dynamic, their individual and collective performances of Gary Lloyd’s choreography are flawless. Disco makes way for fast-paced hip hop, which is in turn followed by segments straight from classic MJ music videos (I mean, you really can’t mess with Thriller or Beat It, can you?)
Lighting and visual effects heighten the stylised choreography, and the costume changes – of which there are so many I lose track – evoke all of MJ’s most characteristic styles, making it easy to imagine we’re watching an authentic Michael Jackson concert. This feeling is enhanced by music from the six-piece band led by Musical Director Mike Lindup, especially during moments when its two guitarists join the cast to rock out on stage.
Thriller Live is a celebration of the King of Pop, but it also pays homage to his more overtly political work. Performances of Earth Song and They Don’t Care About Us, which were both released over twenty years ago, seem to reverberate with newfound significance in 2016 as we listen to pleas for inclusivity and world-betterment.
As far as the rest of the show is concerned, much of it is pure, unadulterated pop. You can’t help but enjoy yourself. Only in town until Saturday 23rd July, Thriller Live is one party you won’t want to miss.