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Too many Jackos spoil the froth

Jackson fans take note: there's a gripping musical waiting to be written about the colourful life and tragic death of Michael Jackson, but this isn't it.

Thriller Live, doesn't claim to be anything other than a concert featuring the King of Pop's hits. But the only person who could give us some of Jackson's brilliance died two years ago. Anything else is an imitation, and gets boring quite quickly.

Thriller Live features an ensemble cast belting out a largely chronological procession of songs, from the Jackson Five days through to the brilliance of the record-breaking Thriller. Along the way, there's a token attempt to create a context with occasional narration, but the result has the hallmarks of a community-hall variety show.

The endearing Blaze Ellis-Porter gets the ball rolling as the young Jackson, belting out the Jackson Five classic ABC. Thereafter, it's difficult to warm to the central character, by virtue of the fact that there are so many of them.


Sean Christopher takes top billing as lead vocalist, but with a selection of the performers (Dwayne Wint, AJ Lewis and Ben E Forster) taking turns with the microphone, the overall effect is confusing. At one point, there are no less than six actors on stage dressed identically as the iconic star. The costumes are faithful to Jackson's own.

Much of Jackson's adult life was marked by the gradual change of his skin colour from black to white. In this show, it doesn't matter if you're black or white, or if you're male or female. Enter the show-stealing, uber-sexy Samantha Carlene, whose rendition of The Way You Make Me Feel is as powerful and more soulful than the original.

The second half of this unashamed homage to Jackson brings an upsurge of flashing imagery and over-the-top lighting which is frankly grating.

It's as if producers Paul Walden and Derek Nicol couldn't choose between a concert and a theatrical ode to a dead icon. It's also a tad drawn-out.

However, the choreography, by Gary Lloyd, is electric, and the dancers engage in an orgy of moon-walking, shoulder-twitching and crotch-grabbing of which the King of Pop would surely have been proud. HHHII