Sources: NZ Herald – By Lydia Jenkin | All Things Michael
The music and story of Michael Jackson remains a source of public fascination and widespread fandom, so perhaps it’s no surprise that nearly six years after his tragic death, he continues to be celebrated in the form of a tribute musical.
Thriller Live has been performed more than 3000 times to three million people in 28 countries, and holds a West End record for the longest-running show at the Lyric Theatre.
But the show’s genesis is what gives it a point of difference from the many other shows and productions that pay tribute to Michael. The creator of Thriller Live, Adrian Grant, is a long-time associate of Michael’s, who worked with him since 1990, starting out by creating the Off The Wall fan magazine, and progressing to become a trusted collaborator, visiting Michael in the studio, at Neverland, and touring with him.
Grant then set out to stage a tribute concert each year for fans in London.
It began as a fairly amateur affair, but quickly progressed, and by 2001 the concert was being held for 3000 people at the Hammersmith Apollo, where Michael attended, and gave it his support.
That inspired Grant to take things further, team up with a production company, and createThriller Live, which opened a few months before Michael died.
The show covers Michael’s music from his early days in The Jackson 5, through to his final releases, and has proved to be an emotional reminder of his legacy for his fans and his family, most of whom have seen the show – including his older brother Tito Jackson, who whole-heartedly endorses it.
“It’s a beautiful show,” he explains down the line from his home in Los Angeles, sounding warm and smiling. “I remember the first time I saw it. It took me all the way back to my earlier days, in the Jackson Five, and how everything began, with the family. It brings to light things that people might not have known, or forgotten, or even things that they particularly loved and want to remember. They do a good job of capturing the Jackson Five as well as Michael.
“And of course, the music is fabulous as well. It’s so close to the original that sometimes when my brothers and I were listening, we thought we were listening to the original tracks. So the band is fabulous.”
He thinks Grant has done a great job of creating a show that feels true to the family, and wasn’t just jumping on the bandwagon after Michael’s death.
“This is the original one, this one was capturing Michael while he was here and alive. I think they have the greatest appreciation for what Michael stood for, which is why they were first to create a show about the Jacksons. Adrian Grant really believed in us, he was a fan, he was doing this before the dramatic events with Michael, so I think that’s one of the edges that Thriller Live has.
“Cirque du Soleil is a very different show, it’s a circus with Michael Jackson music, but this show really is about Michael, and the Jackson Five, it’s imitating the real lives, the real image of the group and of Michael. So it’s about enjoying the music and the style of the group. It’s just a whole different animal I think.”
The show involves 45 singers, dancers, musicians and crew, but rather than a biographical storyline with each performer playing a single role, it moves through his music styles, with different singers performing as Michael during different songs, and different dancers tackling his signature moves.
“Having multiple people playing Michael is great because he had a huge career, at all ages, so you have to be able to represent Michael from his younger days in Jackson Five, through to Thriller Michael, and his later years. Plus the range of Michael’s voice is pretty rare, so having different performers with their own strengths to cover it all is great.”
A show such as Thriller Live leads Tito to think back to his early days – their lives as an up-and-coming soul-rock’n’roll group, and how they came so far.
“I can’t thank Motown enough, because they were our mouthpiece, our way of reaching out and sharing our music with the world.
“They believed in a children’s act when others didn’t, so I take my hat off to them. They did a fabulous job with The Jackson 5. I think one of the things that made us special though, is that we were willing to try any circumstance, and also that we really loved what we did, specially in the beginning.
“We rehearsed every day, three or four hours every day without missing a day. And we recorded every day – Motown has a can of songs from the brothers that is a mile long and jammed full, we have so many recordings! There’s a lot the world has never heard.”
Those which the world has heard have endured for a long time though, and Michael’s hits seem particularly ageless.
“It’s because the message is strong. It’s great music, a lot of love and passion went into that music, and Michael means what he sings. That’s why. It still inspires people.”
* Thriller Live was originally conceived and created by Adrian Grant, a long-time associate of Michael Jackson, and author of Michael Jackson – The Visual Documentary.
Who: Tito Jackson, member of the Jackson Five
What: West End musical Thriller Live, based on the music and life of Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five
Where and when: Opens at the Civic Theatre in Auckland tonight and runs until Sunday February 22.
* See thrillerlive.com for more info.
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