Thriller Live – Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1 to 24 April 2020. 4****. William Russell

Thriller Live
Created by Adrian Grant.
The Lyric Theatre, 29 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES booking to 26 April 2020.
Tues-Fri 7.30pm. Sat 4pm & 8pm. Sun 3.30pm & 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25 mins. One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7494 5841.

Review: William Russell 29 August 2019.

Musicals tend to run for many years nowadays and this musical revue based on the songs of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, has been going for a decade in the West End and is the longest running show the Lyric has had. It remains as fresh as the day it opened there in 2010. Performers have come and gone but the show’s standards have been maintained, which is not always the case with long runs. I did not attend the opening press night but I did see it three years ago and went back to see the show and attend a summer celebration after show party which members of the audience could also attend. Thriller Live has its devotees and it was a chance for them to meet the cast. The secret is that the cast does change – at this performance Joey James, who made his name on X Factor, joined it as one of the five lead vocalists, fitting seamlessly in to the show.
Jackson’s songs are its raison d’être, but what carries it to success are the dancers, athletic, daring, drilled to the nth degree and apparently tireless. They must be the best dance ensemble in the West End, coping not just with the choreography but with a nonstop series of costume changes. The production values are high and the set – basically two staircases leading to a bridge across the back of the stage beneath which a first rate band is belting out the melodies – never stops surprising. Basically it is a series of light projections which keep changing. The thin story line about Jackson is neither here nor there, and the sequence where images of various past members of the great and the good like John Kennedy, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King pop up adds very little to the goings on. The audience is encouraged to stand up, dance, clap and wave along and up gets the entire house and obliges. Intriguingly it was not a particularly young audience. There were the inevitable tourists, but mostly it was middle aged folk who were young when Jackson was alive reliving their youth. By any standards it is a good night out, one which will thrill and at which the antics of those dancers will take your breath away.
It is currently at number 13 in the list of long running West End shows and in December will replace Billy Elliot as number 12 in the list. It looks like climbing up that list for years to come.
Wayne Anthony-Cole; Vivienne Ekwulugo; Haydon Eshun; Joey James; David Julien; Sophia Mackay; John Moabi; Florivaldo Mossi.
Resident Director & Swing Dancer: Aisling Duffy.
Dance Captain & Swing Dancer: Ebony Clarke.
Daniel Blessing; Filippo Coffano; David Devyne; Joel Ekperigin; Eliza Hart; Leona Lawrenson; Mari Macleod; Oskarina O’Sullivan; Zinzile Tshuma; Matt Vjestica; Arnold Mahbena; Simone Moncada; Triple Calz; Josiah Choto; Isaiah Mason; Messiah Unsudimi.

Director & Choreographer: Gary Lloyd.
Musical Director: John Maher.
Set Designer: Jonathan Park.
Lighting Designer: Nigel Catmur.
Video Content Designer: Colin Rozee.
Costume Stylists & Supervisors: Shooting Flowers.
Special Effects: The Twins FX Visual.
Production photograph: Alastair Muir.

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