REVIEW: Thriller Live (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, February 8)

A non-stop celebration of the undisputed King of Pop, Michael Jackson, has been thrilling fans in the West End for several years – and now Thriller Live is proving a real crowd-pleaser on a UK tour.

There’s plenty to warm the hearts of MJ fans and get the feet moonwalking in this concert, which is a fairly random collection of some of the singer’s greatest hits from the days of the Jackson Five right through to award-winning solo career.

Devised originally by Adrian Grant, the lively production is directed and choreographed by Gary Lloyd, and is one of those juke box shows so beloved of cruise liners, featuring vocalists and dancers giving their all and attempting to whip the audience into a frenzy.

This isn’t especially a tribute to Jackson, nor is it an attempt to tell his fascinating story, rather it’s an unstructured evening of glitz, glamour and energy – sometimes trying to capture the magic of the star’s songs almost as a mirror image, others clearly putting a fresh mark on the familiar.

There are certainly a few storming gems, such as a breathtaking Dangerous, an exhilarating Smooth Criminal, and a suitably ghoulish Thriller, and the live band, under the musical direction of Andy Chisolm, is a treat.

Some of the dancers are allowed to stamp their own personalities on the proceedings a shade too generously, egos edging out the musical genius being honoured, and as a general rule none of the lead vocalists is charismatic enough to match the original’s showmanship – though Cleopatra Higgins has strong presence and a great voice.

As a courtesy to the audience and to MJ’s memory, it might be helpful if the performers who mimed to some of the songs (understandable where there are demanding dance routines) at least knew the lyrics.

Overall the impression is that everyone is trying a bit too hard – and that is definitely something Jackson himself never had to do.