A round-up of reviews I’ve written for other sources this week…

Written for the South Wales Evening Post:

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Written for Reviews Hub:

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Thriller Live – New Theatre, Cardiff

This year has sadly seen some of music’s heavyweights, such as David Bowie and Prince, pass away. Seven years before that, back in 2009, we lost the ‘King of Pop’ himself. This production lives on and helps keep his memory and the magic of his music alive.

Thriller Live has grown and transformed from ‘The Annual Michael Jackson  Celebration’, created by Adrian Grant as an excuse for fans to get together for a party and concert in appreciation of their favourite artist. Today, the celebration still thrives – it’s Monday night, and it’s a sell-out. The air is buzzing electric with anticipation.

There is no story as such, the show is presented in a timeline of Jackson’s life  (glossing over the unsavoury moments, of course) taking a tour through the high-points of his back catalogue. There’s so much to choose from but the first act is a little slow as it plods through the early years. There’s a sense that we’re all waiting for the big hits from the titular Thriller album, onwards. The songs in the second act certainly get the biggest cheers. For this reason, Act Two is better than the first, though both are enjoyable enough.

Our senses are both delighted and overwhelmed with concert-style production – the LED screens make up much of the scene setting, the music is loud and ‘blinders’ light up the audience regularly. The costumes are bright, sparkly and glorious. It’s all very Vegas. Normally technical aspects move like clockwork in the background, working their magic without anyone really noticing. In Thriller Live the lighting and effects create a huge part of capturing the vibe of a genuine Michael Jackson concert. A lot of work has gone in to creating a large, loud, explosive visual treat.

The director and choreographer, Gary Lloyd, has done a phenomenal job creating the sharp, slick and stylish dance moves which embody Michael Jackson. The pin-point synchronicity of movement reflects the precision and attention one would expect from an actual Jackson concert – he would certainly have approved.

Impersonating Jackson is no easy task – the man himself was one of a kind. In an attempt to make up for this, there isn’t one Jackson, but five. It is impossible to pick any one over the other, as they all bring something to each part of his character – Rory Taylor and Angelica Allen bring the raw emotion, Shaquille Hemmans (understudied seamlessly by Tyrone Lee in the second act due to illness) and Michael Kavuma bring light-hearted fun, getting the audience up out of their chairs for some interactivity and Sean Christopher gives us Jackson, the dancer – including the iconic moonwalking.

The live onstage band are incredible and bring such authenticity to the concert atmosphere. The power of the music reverberates through the auditorium, the music seeps in through our bones as well as our ears.

Jukebox musicals are a dime a dozen these days, often with tenuous stories linking tired hits. Thriller Live doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is – a celebration of Jackson and his music. Like a good champagne, it sparkles and fizzes with it’s unapologetic, indulgent pop. A night of pure entertainment to be enjoyed by Jackson fans, or anyone after a fun, raucous evening.

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