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Thriller - Live
Lyric Theatre January 2009 -

This is a bit of a pointless review. Nobody who reads it is likely to see this show, and nobody who plans to see it cares what I or any other critic has to say. But, for the record....

Thriller is a salute to Michael Jackson, with a company of singers and dancers, male and female, performing songs associated with the pop star. It has, in fact, been touring for a couple of years, and is just pausing in London before going back on the road.

Curiously, it is not primarily a tribute-band-type show - except for a couple of numbers at the beginning and end, there is little attempt to imitate Jackson's sound, look or performance style.

A Jackson Five medley at the start is done in the general style of the originals, but it really isn't until fairly late in the evening that dancer Ricko Baird begins to suggest Michael's moves in 'Smooth Criminal,' and not until the big finale begins with 'Billy Jean' that we get the full arsenal of struts, Michael Bennett hat moves, moonwalking and crotch grabs.

'Thriller,' of course, gets an approximation of the classic choreography, 'Remember the Time' has the Egyptian setting of the video, and 'Bad' and 'Black or White' have the expected look and sound about them.

But through most of the evening the singers perform the songs in their own way, backed up by a generic chorus line, and sometimes even remembering to move their lips in synch with the words we're hearing.

Except for the obvious evidence that a lot of money has been spent on video screens, flashing lights, smoke effects and a massive sound system, the overall impression - even down to the pleasant but essentially anonymous performers - is of cruise ship entertainment, or the lounge of a smaller Las Vegas hotel.

(And I'm sorry, but I really have to ask whether the creators of this show could possibly not have seen the comic irony of accompanying 'Man In The Mirror,' with its lyric about making changes, with an on-screen montage of Michael's various faces?)

Michael Jackson deservedly has legions of fans. But surely they can't be so hungry that a second-hand experience like this is satisfying. You can buy the DVD of Michael himself for one-tenth the price of a ticket to Thriller Live.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Thriler - Lyric 2009