Party hats and cake on napkins were the order of the day on Tuesday as Thriller Live celebrated a landmark moment – becoming the 15th longest running musical on the West End. Rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest names in the capital’s theatre history, the chance to once more see the cast take to the stage, buoyed by the success of the show and its ability to wow audiences for 8 years, was certainly a pleasant experience.
Thriller Live isn’t a musical per se – the only narrative thread is the biographic charting of Jackson’s life and the styles woven within the decades. We go through the highs of the Jackson Five, into the disco-filled periods of romantic intensity, alighting on some powerfully political moments, before finally resting with the classics, all re-enacted by a team of stellar performers, especially the seemingly endless wealth of energy exhibited by the dancers in the background of each song. Almost 2 and a half hours of non-stop performing, with acrobatic, exuberant sequences that rival some of the finest in the country.
A guest turn from pop star Cleopatra was instrumental here – her fresh vivacity and vocal talents shone throughout, granting her a swathe of attention even when joined by dozens of other performers onstage. While singling out a performer would be tricky, special praise must go to Haydon Eshun who, after over 2000 performances, is now pushing for the record of most lead vocalist performances ever on a West End stage (and probably beyond).
The numbers are only as impressive as they are because there’s a stellar show behind them. At some moments, when performer Dajiow took to the stage for instance, it felt almost akin to a glimpse into the past. If anything, Dajiow’s presence detracted slightly from the presence of the other performers – by being such a stirring lookalike, it somehow dampened the idea that Jackson is one for all – a different performer capable of speaking through a number of lips. What was most saddening, perhaps, was that the deeply political moments, the likes of Black or White or Man in the Mirror came on, their message felt even more pertinent than they may have been when written – a signal perhaps of how little things have changed when it comes to both social and racial injustice.
Designer and tech must also get praise, with a versatile, exciting and flexible stage space that was consistently exciting to both look at, yet consistently complimented the overall visual cavalcade. Here’s to breaking the top 10!