If this production is viewed as a piece of theatre then it’s probably in the 2-star range. However, it’s not reasonable to view it in this context. This is a gig. A concert. A celebration of song, dance and music. There is no plot, there are no characters. It’s packed with masses of talent and skill and it’s extremely joyful.
There are excellent vocals from the ensemble of singers, namely Vivienne Ekwulugo, Haydon Eshun, David Julien, John Moabi and Florivaldo Mossi who also excels with Jackson’s signature moves. They are also joined by the super talented Ishaan Raithatha as a Jackson-5 Michael.
There is wonderfully inventive and rich choreography from Gary Lloyd, who also directs. There are some truly masterful moments. The dancers are a total joy. They are excellent. Standouts are Deavion Brown, Eliza Hart and Filippo Coffano.
Peter Andre appears as the guest star, sharing with us some lovely heartfelt moments of singing, bringing his trademark warmth and charm. He’s got a good voice. Andre is a reasonable dancer, but when the benchmark is Michael Jackson, most people would fall short and he does slightly, but not enough to spoil a lovely performance.
It has to be stressed that this is a very enjoyable and joyful production, however, it’s the constraints of the theatrical space that frame its issues. The Lyric just isn’t big enough for it. The stage is too small and there is no room for people in the general seating to bring the music and joy into their bodies to move and dance. Audience members in the stalls were policed from standing up and dancing by exasperating looking ushers, despite us then being invited by the cast to stand at several points. This production longs for a music venue because this is not a theatre show, it’s a gig. We want to dance and jump and sway and feel these amazing songs performed by this wonderful cast and it feels stifling to be stuck in the stalls, where even stood up, there’s no room to move. When the Lyric closes next year for refurbishment and Thriller has to find a new home, the producers should seriously consider moving away from a traditional theatre space.
Theatrically there are some very awkward moments where musicians come downstage to play the guitar but neither possess the slightest bit of showmanship which gives a very ‘school-show’ vibe to those appearances. There are also some very generic ‘acting’ moments with the ensemble conducting ‘elephant elephant’ chats. The spoken links are often evangelical in tone, which, while about a very questionable figure such as Jackson are potentially uncomfortable depending on what you believe about him. It’s these moments that need erasing. There really is no need. With a cast this talented and music this enduring, we can get rid of the ham theatrics and preaching and just have the party!