As previously tipped (See The Goss, 3 Nov 2008), Michael Jackson tribute show Thriller - Live will move into Shaftesbury Avenue in the new year, opening at the Lyric Theatre for a limited season from 21 January to 12 April 2008 (previews from 2 January).

In preparation, producers are today launching a major talent search for an undiscovered 11- to 15-year-old boy to play the part of the young Michael Jackson and “moonwalk” his way into a West End debut. Open auditions take place from 10.30am at the Lyric Theatre on Sunday 23 November 2008.

Thriller - Live includes Michael Jackson and Jackson Five chart-toppers such as “I Want You Back”, “I’ll Be There”, “Earth Song”, “Blame It on the Boogie”, “Billie Jean”, “Beat It” and, of course, the title song, “Thriller” from best-selling albums including Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and HIStory. The show received a one-off West End try-out at the Dominion Theatre in 2006 and has subsequently had three UK-wide tours (See News, 28 Mar 2007).

Despite his tabloid troubles in more recent years, after a career spanning more than four decades, Michael Jackson, born on 29 August 1958, is still considered the “King of Pop” by many. His achievements include seven UK Number One hits, the World Music Award\'s Best-Selling Pop Male Artist of the Millennium, and the American Music Award\'s Artist of the Century Award. Jackson’s record label Sony BMG this year released a compilation album of fan-voted favourite tracks to coincide with the singer’s 50th birthday this year. 2008 also marked the 25th anniversary of the Thriller album.

Thriller - Live was originally conceived and created by long-time Jackson associate Adrian Grant. It’s directed by Gary Lloyd, who has also choreographed it with additional choreography by LaVelle Smith Jr and Kerys Nathan. The show is produced by Flying Music, which has previously had success with compilation musicals including The Rat Pack and Dancing in the Streets.

The weekly schedule for the new self-styled “family-friendly” show will include two Sunday performances for the first time in the West End, with top-price tickets capped at £49.50.

Derek Nicol, of Flying Music, said today: \"Thriller - Live is an uplifting, feelgood show with incredible choreography and sensational songs that everyone knows and loves - it\'s just the sort of escapist entertainment people need to take their minds off how tough life is at the moment. Thriller - Live has high production values, a large company on stage and a live band - and it delivers high-class entertainment that is suitable for everyone from eight to 80.

“It\'s obvious to us from the recent early closing of West End musicals, cancellation of several planned UK tours, and the number of ticket discounts and promotions, that money is extremely tight and a lot of the current shows are struggling to fill their theatres. We want to make sure that Thriller - Live is in the price bracket of as many people as possible.\"

Paul Curran of Sony BMG Music Entertainment UK, added: \"The show is a celebration of one of the greatest music catalogues in history. We are thrilled to be involved.\"

Currently at the Lyric, Craig Revel Horwood and Karen Ruimy’s new Latin dance show Flamenco Flamen\'ka finishes on 15 November and is followed, from 17 November to 12 December 2008, by comedian Eddie Izzard with his latest stand-up show, Stripped (See News, 2 Oct 2008).

- by Terri Paddock