With pelvic thrusts and high pitched “ee-hee”s a-plenty, The Man in the Mirror is a Michael Jackson tribute show that knows its audience and knows it well.
A whistle-stop tour of Jackson’s biggest hits, this pseudo-concert of a show is as well polished, as flashy and as loud as you could expect from any arena gig. The set and lighting design reflect this in an overall aesthetic that is almost identical to that of the X-Factor live finals, providing a sign-post as to the content of the show: this is a showcase of pop music. There is no dialogue, narrative or attempt at high art here.
From the opening number, the cast of dancers and vocalists burst onto the stage in a whirlwind of attitude, acrobatics (both physical and vocal) and costume changes. The tone of performance is relentlessly high-octane, with the insanely energetic company of dancers really driving this. As they pop, lock and moonwalk with an impressive unison, the onstage band and vocalists support, performing with competence, confidence and charisma.
Highlights included the well-characterised "Beat It" and the dynamic and stylised "Scream", though the thongs and table dancing during the quite literal "Dirty Diana" border on the tasteless. Schmaltzy shots of Michael with his chums (Liz Taylor, Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela et al) are projected onto a giant screen during "You Are Not Alone", whilst footage from his funeral and childhood are shown at random points during the show.
Considering the relatively recent death of Michael Jackson, the lack of context for some of these clips makes their questionable inclusion within this show feel like a cynical stab at inducing sentimentality. Not that the audience seemed to mind. Cheering and clapping from the overture, the response to the show was genuinely ecstatic on the night I attended. By halfway through the second act, the entire auditorium were on their feet, singing-along with abandon and dancing in the aisles.
A reminder of an iconic musical legacy, this show is definitely one for the Michael Jackson fans. For everyone else, if you’re willing to leave your brain at the front door, it’s a fun and lively night out.
I know that thanks to The Man in the Mirror, I’ll be digging out Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits at the first opportunity. Ow!