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Review: Thriller Live at Sunderland Empire

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Jackson’s Star Appeal
Still Shines Brightly

Thriller Live
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 30th January 2016.

Michael Jackson is still a hugely popular star. His music is still selling by the lorry load and his videos live long in the memory of all that saw them. Could it be possible to simply put a show together that simply showcases his back catalogue in all of it’s splendour?

Thriller Live succeeds in pulling together the strong visual elements of Jackson’s ground breaking videos and the life defining songs.

Director and choreographer Gary Lloyd, fresh from his success with last year’s Carrie The Musical (Review) has pulled together a terrific show. The dancing is superb, the young dancers pull off the tight routines that characterised those memorable videos.

Cleopatra Higgins Photo: Irina Chira
Each of Jackson’s songs are sung faithfully by 5 talented singers. Cleopatra Higgins handled much of the earlier material. Rory Taylor brings a tear to the eye on the ballads. Shaquille Hemmans and Michael Kavuna share a clear passion for the Jackson back catalogue too. Stepping in as Michael himself was understudy Eddy Lima who was not phased by the magnitude of the task.

The show is filled with the hits. 33 of them pack the show, from ABC and Rockin’ Robin at the start of the career through to Dangerous, Beat It and Dirty Diana towards the end. However the big numbers are of course Billie Jean, Bad and Earth Song. The top billing goes to Thriller, a song that not only confirmed Jackson as a superstar but moved the concept of the music video to a whole new level.

The pulsing heart of the show are the 6 musicians under musical director Mike Lindup. Guitarists Allan Salmon and Rob Minns occasionally appear in the action though most of the time the musicians are behind a video screen, which is a shame as they didn’t put a note wrong all night.

The use of video screens and special effects adds to, but does not detract from, the core action on the stage.

This is not a traditional musical, as there is no story - other than a few pointers about Michael’s life and recording career. But it is a stunning celebration of a popular musician.  The singers invite the audience to be a part of the show and they had the packed Empire audience on their feet on a number of occasions.

This is a music event that shows that Jackson’s star has not faded and it is a highly entertaining live experience.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook


Tickets are on sale now from the Box Office on High Street West, Sunderland, the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* and online at

The 2015/16 UK tour dates are:

Sunderland Empire, 25 - 30 January 
York Grand Opera House, 1 - 6 February
Stoke on Trent Regent Theatre, 11 - 13 February
Bristol Hippodrome, 15 - 20 February
Southend Cliff’s Pavilion, 22 - 27 February
Darlington Civic Theatre, 29 February - 5 March
Birmingham Alexandra Theatre, 7 - 12 March
Oxford New Theatre, 14 - 19 March
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 21 - 26 March
Sheffield Lyceum, 29 March - 2 April
Liverpool Empire,11 - 16 April
Glasgow Kings Theatre, 18 - 23 April
Cardiff New Theatre, 25 - 30 April
Bournemouth 6 - 11 May



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