REVIEW: Thriller Live – You Can’t Beat It

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Guest contributor, Marni.

Review provided by special guest contributor, Marni Carlsson, from the Gold Coast, Australia.

I was given the opportunity to attend the first night of Thriller Live in Brisbane with my family and a few of the biggest Michael Jackson fans I know. Of course when Michael Jackson fans get together, we do get excited, and also at times hyper critical of tribute shows, impersonators, documentaries and movies. For Thriller Live though, we were just prepared for a great night out!

Thriller Live has been described as a musical journey of Michael Jackson’s life and times, and it is simply that. Despite reading reviews and following the show’s journey from its 2007 debut in London in to its 2015 Australian tour, I still expected something a little different. Being billed as a musical, I was expecting to see more dialogue and narration throughout. The narration was sparse, and at times humorous and light, focussing on Jackson’s amazing musical achievements, which are always fun for us big fans to hear.

It should be noted that the songs were shared between several lead cast members – including female lead Samantha Johnson (Prinnie Stephens did not perform at the show we attended), Australian cast member MiG Ayesa, and several others. Sean Christopher “played” the part of Michael Jackson on occasion, singing and dancing some of his biggest hits. This creative production sets it apart from other Michael Jackson tribute shows as each cast member plays a different side of Michael Jackson rather than the cast simply copying the performances or video clips.

Thriller Live - Australia Cast

A shot from “Show You The Way To Go” from The Jackson 5 / The Jacksons segment of Thriller Live.

The show started with a bang- the opening strains to “HIStory” by the cast and the journey began. From The Jackson 5’s first hits, “I Want You Back” to “I’ll Be There.” We were reminded that The Jackson 5 split with Motown in 1975 (becoming The Jacksons) followed by an amazing collection of great songs from the Jacksons era. A lovely surprise was “Show You The Way To Go,” a highly underrated smooth disco tune from The Jacksons’ 1976 self-titled first album with CBS. The hits continued with “Blame It On The Boogie,” and a stunning “Dangerous” / “Heartbreak Hotel” performance by Sean Christopher, before a celebration of hits from Jackson’s coming-of-age solo album Off The Wall. Another nice surprise was “Get On The Floor,” a gorgeous funk track and fan favourite. The first act ended with the whole cast singing “Can You Feel It.”

Thriller Live - Australia Cast

“Dangerous” / “Heartbreak Hotel” performance by Sean Christopher.

 

We had a brief intermission before the second act started with a seemingly brief celebration of the Thriller album. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” and “Beat It” were followed by a longer set from the Bad album. “The Way You Make Me Feel” (one of my favourite performances) was incredibly creative. In a tribute to the short film, Samantha Johnson sang the lead and was followed around the stage by many “Michaels” (the lead male vocalists) pursuing her. Sean Christopher and the dancers recreated “Smooth Criminal,” complete with the famous “lean.” MiG Ayesa sang a stirring and dramatic rendition of “Dirty Diana,” inspired by Jackson’s stage performances of the song from the second leg of the Bad tour in 1988. “Man In the Mirror,” a fan and public favourite, was followed by “Earth Song,” reminding us of Michael Jackson’s message of peace, love, and caring for the Earth. In the final part of the show, Sean Christopher – in full Michael Jackson gear, and with moves to match – performed an amazing set featuring “Billie Jean,” “Thriller,” and “Bad”. This last part of the show was definitely the crowd favourite; Christopher did an amazing job emulating Michael Jackson’s famous dance routines and voice.

Thriller Live - Australia Cast

Sean Christopher performing “Billie Jean” in Thriller Live.

 

The show had a lot of audience interaction and there was humour, and moments that tugged at the heartstrings. The show had some flaws, with some unflattering costumes and some lip synching during Sean Christopher’s performances. A disappointing aspect of Thriller Live is that the show just barely touches on songs from the Dangerous or HIStory albums, and doesn’t include any hits from Jackson’s most recent album – 2001’s Invincible. This, however, is understandable given that the public and most casual fans of Jackson’s music won’t know these albums as well as his earlier work.

Overall the show was highly entertaining, and a joy to watch – especially as a massive Michael Jackson fan. There were exciting and creative interpretations of the big- and lesser known- hits. This is a show created purely out of love for Michael Jackson’s music, his influence, and his legacy. Thriller Live is a great night out, and a reminder of the amazing music that Michael Jackson created.

By Marni Carlsson – officially crowned “Australia’s #1 Michael Jackson Fan” by Max Music TV and Sony Music Entertainment in 2008.

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