15-20 February 2016
Reviewed by Siobhan Bridgwater
I took my 11 year old son along to see Thriller Live at the beautiful Bristol Hippodrome last night. I was a Motown baby. I grow up to the sounds of the Jackson 5 and later on, throughout Michael Jackson’s phenomenal solo career. He was one of my generation’s outstanding performers, in the “beyond reach” league and I was interested to see if his music still appealed to future generations.
My expectations were high. I wanted the show to be slick, high energy and captivating. It was and it wasn’t. The format was simple enough. It was basically a chronological celebration of the hits: starting from the humble, family beginnings and tracking Michael’s incredible rise through to super-stardom and worldwide notoriety. The performances were played out on a relatively plain, black stage, with a double sided staircase and raised balcony dance area. The stage was encapsulated by huge screens to the sides and above and below the balcony. A show for the die-hard fans according to the narrators as we were all there because “we loved Michael Jackson”.
The start was disappointing. The show kicked off with a little known track and despite an unbelievably good live band, sadly hidden at the back of the stage for most of the night, and wonderful lighting effects blasting out of the screens, it was a surprising choice for the opening number. However, the second track was the glorious “Who’s Loving You” and we were away. And the hits then just kept coming, in incredibly rapid succession, performed beautifully by an unusual collection of lead vocalists. They were not Michael Jackson impersonators, you see. Well not all, I should say. One of them, Sean Christopher, did a stunningly, hypnotic performance of the man himself with all the trademark moves and sparkle whilst the others performed the tracks, true to the original sound, but as themselves. Angelica Allen, the only female vocalist, had an incredible sassy stage presence and a superior vocal range which delighted the audience. And as my son said, Rory Taylor, a fellow lead, was “really enjoying himself”. His enthusiasm and admiration for the superstar shone out and enchanted us all throughout the night.
The vocalists were often joined on stage by a group of dancers. They were impressively talented: kicking and flipping their way around the stage with boundless vitality but it was a little too “eyes and teeth” for me, particularly on the first half. And whilst the dance routines were wonderful and colourful they did not always seems a perfect accompaniment with the tracks.
The costumes were the biggest distraction for me. Not many can pull off Michael Jackson’s style, nor should even try. It takes a certain frame and statue to get the stage outfits to look cool. Plus an attitude to get away with it, not to mention the obligatory use of luxurious fabrics, buckles and shininess in abundance. And whilst the girls fared considerably better, their male counterparts tended to draw the short straw with ill-fitting suits and bizarre ensembles which looked like they had been run up or gathered on a tight budget.
I did enjoy it but, when the lights went up at the interval, my beaming son looked noticeably shocked when he saw my face was not mirroring his total delight. He loved every moment, for start to finish. But for him, the music was being heard for the first time and he was oblivious to the profound impact Michael Jackson has had on the history of music. For those of us that can remember what an unforgettable and exciting performer Michael Jackson was, the show is very enjoyable, enormously fun and entertaining but not mind blowing. The second half was stronger and tighter than the former and there is no doubt that all the performers could not have worked harder to entertain us. The singers were great, the band were totally awesome and the lighting and special effects took the production to another level.
I would recommend it, but not just to the fans but also for anyone that enjoys that style of music, young and old alike.
Tickets cost from £19.65 to £41.65 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Thriller Live is at the Bristol Hippodrome until 20 February 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012