Review: Thriller Live, Manchester Opera House

Thriller Live.
Thriller Live.

When music legend Michael Jackson died, aged 50, Thriller Live was playing at the Opera House, Manchester.

That was June 2009 and now almost five years on it has returned and playing to packed audiences.

Opening with a video montage, this production is not necessarily what you might expect. There is no attempt at working a lame or otherwise story around his music (not that I’m knocking the likes of successful Mamma Mia) or an attempt to chronicle the minutiae of his packed and sometimes troubled life.

Instead this production, starring Cleo Higgins from former girl band Cleopatra as the lead, quite simply celebrates what Michael Jackson achieved with his memorable, timeless and hugely influential music and dance in his lifetime - and how that legacy is resonant today.

There are a few slightly flat bits in the show, but the slight lows only emphasise the highs and how music can influence a crowd. It ranges from quiet to raucous and the show thunders on - with mesmerising dancers and a range of musical Michaels, it is hypnotic and endlessly entertaining.

Cleo herself, a recent Voice finalist, is an uncanny match for Michael’s voice and tone - if you close your eyes it could be him. But you wouldn’t want to, it is hard to take your eyes of Cleo - she has undeniable stage presence -and she deserves respect for her ability to dance in platform heels.

And the other lead vocalists all take on Michael at different stages of career, with Jesse Smith - with a look more reminiscent of an indie rocker - proving a favourite with the crowd, particularly the ladies.

With audience participation and lots of flashing lights into the crowd, this not your usual musical offering, but I imagine a show that Michael himself would have certainly enjoyed.

If nothing else it proves that Michael’s music does not age and is just as relevant today - any of his songs could be current hits. A Thriller indeed.

Thriller Live is at Manchester Opera House until Saturday, (Feb 1)

NICOLA ADAM