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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jackson's concert-tribute to thrill S'pore


Thriller Live dazzles with a crackerjack team of singer-dancers.

Whether you’d known him for his moonwalks or his multiple nose-jobs, there is no denying that the late Michael Jackson was the rightful King of Pop.
From the packed Lyric Theatre at the West End in London during a recent staging of Thriller Live, a concert-tribute dedicated to celebrating the legend’s greatest hits, I found myself immersed in a delightful mix of whimsical numbers and thumping pop hits in a show led by a crackerjack team of springy singer-dancers.
This Tuesday, Thriller Live opens at the Marina Bay Sands’ Grand Theatre in Singapore.
 
The show in London kicked off with the funky, youthful energy the Jackson 5 years, taking the crowd through their hummable melange Motown-era singles such as I Want You BackABC and the early solo smash Ben before combusting into some of the pop icon’s biggest hits like Billie Jean and Beat it.

Strangely, my mirthful intrigue was underlined by a sense of melancholy the whole time. On one hand, I was reminded that Jackson was indeed one of the greatest performers who’d ever lived as the cast, all prettied-up and sequined, sought to relive his magic.
On another, while the show made no mention of it, one must go through it knowing the troubles that had plagued him unto death.
More so than ever now, in an age of manufactured pop idols, one begins to appreciate his craft. Jackson was an artiste in every sense of the word.
Amid the chorale glee on Thriller Live, it struck me as truly tragic that in life, especially in the years preceding his death, that the once-revered icon was reduced to some bogeyman-like figure.
But Thriller Live was having none of that. In place of a lurid musical tell-all, the production promises a celebration of only Jackson’s finest and it delivers.
Laden with pitch-perfect vocals and bouts of fanciful choreography, it got me pumped up enough to even start dancing a little at one point. But let’s not go there.
Though none of the cast looked like Jackson, the male leads actually did sound a great deal like the American megastar.
Most of them even boasted some impressive moonwalks. But while they were entertaining to watch, they inevitably lacked the presence and prowess of the late king.
Indeed, as said before, he is often imitated but never duplicated.
“Michael was at the forefront of a musical revolution,” said producer Paul Walden during an exclusive interview before the show.
“He didn’t just make songs, he changed the way music was conceived, enjoyed and consumed by the public.”
In fact, his 14-minute Thriller video, which saw the unprecedented merge of filmmaking and music sparked a whole new MTV generation, said Walden. 
“He was always trying to create something different and exciting. He did Thrillereven before artistes were looking to create pop videos.”
In celebration of his career, Thriller Live creator Adrian Grant started the annual Michael Jackson tribute or fan day in 1991.
The event in London was met with tremendous response, attracting up to 3,000 fans every year. Jackson himself attended the 10th anniversary show, which he described as “beautiful and incredible”.
Drawing on the inspiration, Grant developed the show further and put Thriller Liveinto production in 2005.
Two years later, he teamed up with the music publishing company Flying Music and took the show through a series of dates in Britain and a subsequent tour in Europe.
Following the show’s success, Thriller Live began its West End run in 2008. Backed by a 15-member cast and a six-piece live band, the set has since been performed in 25 countries, including China and South Africa.
To date, over one million people have seen the production.
Now, the production makes its South-East Asian debut at The Grand Theatre in Marina Bay Sands, in Singapore.
Brought by BASE Entertainment Asia, Lunchbox Productions and Flying Music, the show boasts an eclectic cast of six leading singers, including a female vocalist and a young boy.
In the absence of a plotline and an all-encompassing moral-of-the-story, Walden said the two-hour concert-style fare aims to remind people of what a truly great performer Jackson was.
“He was a class of his own and his legacy will not vanish anytime soon.”
‘Thriller Live’ opens on May 3 at the Grand Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, in Singapore for a limited run of 16 shows until May 15. Performance schedules are Tuesday to Friday (7.30pm), and Saturday and Sunday (1.30pm and 7.30pm).
Tickets, ranging from S$70 (RM170) to S$170 (RM410), are available at sistic.com.sg / hotline 02-6348 5555. Corporate bookings at 02-6688 8826. For more information, log on to marinabaysands.com. By Fiona Ho

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