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Thriller Live. Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Michael Jackson is the undisputed king of pop. He has a wealth of fantastic songs that make you want to get up and dance and ballads that make you want to find love. To design a show using the hits of Michael Jackson is a mammoth task. What songs do you use and what songs should you leave out? The body of work that Michael has produced means we could have a full weekend show of his music but a show is only two hours and it needs to contain a bit of something for everyone.

History opens the show and then the vocalists start to talk about Michael’s early days; hits such as I’ll be there, I want you back, ABC and of course Rockin’ Robin. The dance number in Rockin’ Robin was very reminiscent of Pan’s People from Top of the Pops and they even have flares on! Sadly, there was only an image of a boy singing this rather than it being sung live and I would have personally preferred either one of the vocalists to sing it live or alternatively, make a bigger number out of one of the other tracks. We then move on to disco, with numbers including Blame it on the Boogie and Don’t stop ‘til you get enough. The timeline skips forwards and backwards and some songs have snippets rather than the whole song – see what I mean about trying to fit so much wonderful work into two hours? There are songs that I personally think could be replaced, such as This Place Hotel, Dancing Machine, Working Day And Night and Dangerous. They are not the first songs you think of when you mention Michael Jackson. Some of the ballads were sung so beautifully, such as She’s Out Of My Life and Human Nature, they were very moving. Suddenly, we find ourselves at Studio 54, the ultimate home of disco. Each song has some amazing dance sequences and a theme. There are an awful lot of costume changes. Can You Feel It has the background of the video using colours and the screens to full visual effect and it looks and feels amazing.

The second half steps it up a notch and opens with Wanna Be Starting Something. Beat It is an exceptional dance number with the two rival gangs and one of the outstanding sets of the evening in my opinion. The other outstanding piece is Smooth Criminal, which takes your breath away. The use of wardrobe, colour, dance steps and lighting really all comes together to make this an amazing adventure of prohibition during the 1920’s. You can almost feel you are in a Michael Jackson video yourself! Dirty Diana featured two female dancers who shone during this number with their dancing bordering on the erotic.

Earth Song is extremely powerful, showing us on the screen photos of people who really cared about the planet such as Martin Luther-King, John Lennon, Mother Teresa and finally an image of Michael Jackson comes up. It really does bring a tear to your eye. Despite the allegations in his personal life, there is no disputing that he did care for the planet and want peace in our time. And wrote about it in fabulous songs such as Black Or White and Earth Song. Billie Jean is a dance number that you cannot sit down to. The dancing was outstanding and even the stairs lit up as they were stepped on. Are you up dancing yet? Then of course, my personal favourite MJ song, Thriller. It stays true to the video, right down to the dated 80’s jacket and the classic dance which is now performed at weddings. I wonder what Michael would have thought of that?!

The live band were outstanding and along with several vocalists this show who all do Michael justice and deliver with warmth and charm. However, Britt Quentin was so soulful he stood out for me. This show is not trying to imitate Michael Jackson. To do that would be setting itself up to fail. What this show offers is a loving reproduction of his work, each carefully thought about and executed brilliantly. And the audience loved it – dancing and singing and cheering each time the moonwalk was performed. Even if you have forgotten how great MJ songs were, this show takes you on a journey of his greatest body of work, giving us a range of emotions and getting us dancing out of our seats.

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