I’ve always been slightly wary of tribute shows, because when the star of the show is being played by an actor, you can’t help but think that it will never be as good as the real thing. And when the star is a superstar, an international legend of talent that is completely unique, you feel that those shoes are just too big to fill.
Any of these concerns are totally misplaced when it comes to Thriller. Currently playing at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, it’s a cracker of a show that leaves you quite literally thrilled and enthralled by the energy, the dancing, the singing, and – well – if that is not Michael Jackson himself on stage which clearly it isn’t, then he has a doppleganger who matches his talent in every way.
Of course the show opens with The Jackson 5, complete with afro hair, flares, and dance moves from way back when. Young Michael is played by a supremely talented young boy, every inch the professional and it’s like watching a video clip from 40 years ago.
The show loosely takes you through Michael’s life, but the narrative takes second place to music and dancing. The costumes, hairstyles and faithful renditions of the songs are superb, and the dancing is quite breathtaking. It’s the sheer pace and energy as the audience is transported from song to song, each accompanied by costume changes so slick and quick that it looks quite effortless.
The narrative reminds us of Michael’s achievements too numerous to list but with more Number 1 hits and awards than I had ever imagined. The Thriller album alone tops the best seller list of all times and each song is re-enacted on stage by different singers, each so talented that you could close your eyes at any point and feel you were listening to the original.
When finally we reach the moment of the moonwalk, which of course is what we have been awaiting, there is Michael on stage with the white ankle grazing trousers, long curly hair, lighter skin, brocaded jacket and hat, all faithful to the original, and gliding backwards across the stage with such speed and skill that I actually rose from my seat to see if there was a moving walkway. Of course there was no such thing, and once again I was spellbound by the talent, the likeness, the sheer entertainment and conviction that this celebration of a life so sadly cut short is the best tribute that could possibly be paid.
The show ends with the crowd on its feet, all dancing to the moves (badly but who cares?). For any Michael Jackson fan, this show is a must, but you have probably been already and more than once. So this is a recommendation for anyone who enjoys wonderful music (the superb live band are at the back of the stage and are frequently visible – a nice touch), top quality dancing, and a great night out. After all, what we should remember about Michael Jackson is not his demise, but the legacy of his music.