Review: Man in the Mirror

For Michael Jackson fans, it’s a thriller

By John Jeffay, July 29, 2010

Grand Theatre, Leeds

Clever choreography is accompanied by adequate singing in this Michael Jackson tribute

Clever choreography is accompanied by adequate singing in this Michael Jackson tribute

This is, without doubt, the Michael Jackson tribute show for those who remain wacko about Jacko.

At this performance, the faithful in the audience roared as the lights went down, before a note had even been played. And they were on their feet roaring again through the final medley.

Small boys dressed in Jackson-style waistcoats and a single white gloves were going wild in the aisles. Talk about not stopping till you get enough.

Unlike some other tribute shows which tack a storyline onto the songs, Man in the Mirror is nothing more, or less, than an evening of crowd-pleasing Jackson numbers, energetically performed and pumped out at high volume. No words, as such, to trouble the audience, save for a few soundbite tributes on a huge screen from Janet Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Justin Timberlake, Quincy Jones, and Whitney Houston.

The stage is populated with dancers wearing little and writhing a lot (the girls), and clutching their groins as though their lives depended on it (the guys). The choreography is clever and the singing, for the most part, OK.

Executive producer David King is an old hand at this kind of show — he is the man behind Rock Around the Clock, Dancing Queen, Solid Gold Motown and Twist and Shout — and one might think that Man in the Mirror, with its UK premiere in Leeds after a run in the USA, was another one off the production line — were it not for the fact Michael Jackson was such a talented songwriter who lived an extraordinary life.

A tear-jerking ballad — Gone Too Soon — reminded us just how talented and extraordinary, set as it was to pictures from the Jackson family photo album — Michael with Nelson Mandela, Michael with Princess Di, Michael with Prince Charles (separately, that is).

And there was a throwback to the impish, pre-surgery Jackson, with a performance from the precocious Dylan Allen, an 11-year-old look-/sound-/dance-a-like. When he moon-walked, the audience erupted. And when he reminded them that Jackson was “gone, but still in our hearts,” they gasped. Corny, but still affecting.

As a non-Jackson fan, I have to admit I enjoyed it. I chuckled when the screen helpfully displayed the words “Nah Nah Nah” for the audience to sing along to Pretty Young Thing. I also laughed when it seemed as though they were going to show the famous baby-dangling moment, but stopped just short.

I may have joined in, quietly with Blame it on the Boogie. And it was good to be reminded how good Jackson was at his best with hits like Beat It and Thriller. But what a jolt it was, to be dumped back in the real world with the projection of the haunting photographs of the pills and medication found in the bedroom where a very talented man died.

Until July 31. Tel: 0844 848 2706

Last updated: 12:19pm, July 29 2010