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Thriller - Live - Lyric Theatre (review)

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

I HAVE to admit that it was with some trepidation that I went along to the Lyric Theatre to see Thriller – Live. Michael Jackson is, after all, still the undisputed King of Pop and the question I kept asking myself was: could anyone do him and his music the justice they so rightly deserve?

In the event, I needn’t have worried. Thriller – Live does exactly what it promises – it celebrates the career of a remarkable young man. And with one exception (but more of that later), it doesn’t rely on Michael Jackson look-alikes to deliver his extraordinary repertoire of hits.

They are, in fact, performed by four very talented actors – Ben E Forster, Haydon Eshun, John Moabi and former X Factor contestant Maria Lawson – and as you would expect from a West End production, they deliver the goods in spectacular fashion. But what of the young Michael Jackson?

At Thursday night’s performance (February 11, 2010), he was masterfully represented by the charming fourteen-year-old Mitchell Zhangazha. It is, however, a role he shares with four other young actors, so who you get depends entirely on when you go.

Which brings me to Ricko Baird who has been with the show since it opened a little over a year ago. His take on Billie Jean and Thriller (remember the video?) was as near perfect as is humanly possible. In fact, seeing Baird in silhouette, you could be forgiven for thinking it was Jackson himself.

But Baird has learned from the master, having danced alongside Jackson on the Michael Jackson and Friends tour. Not only that, he also co-choreographed Jackson’s number one hit You Rock My World and doubled for him in the video. Little wonder then, that he brought the house down with his performance.

With non-stop music and dance – and believe me the boys and girls of the company can dance – Thriller – Live is fast-paced and very very loud. But in the absence of neighbours, why turn down the volume? It’s also good to look at, thanks to Jonathan Park’s sparkling set and Rob Jones and Catherine Teatum’s fitting costumes (no pun intended).

Thriller – Live is indeed a wonderful tribute to Michael Jackson and is especially poignant now, following his untimely death in June 2009. It undoubtedly makes for a great night out – providing, of course, you like the man and his music – and, judging by last night’s audience, it really does bring out the very best in us – and that surely can’t be Bad!

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