Although Michael Jackson has been gone for over a year his spirit still lives on through his music as well as through various tribute shows created to honor his legacy. The Ultimate Thriller, one such tribute performance, honored Jackson's legacy in a way that previous tributes haven't been able to fully accomplish.
What makes The Ultimate Thriller stand out is sheer authenticity in terms of getting the elements of Jackson's stage persona down to a tee, as well as picking the right performer to step into Jackson's shoes--Tej'ai Sullivan managed to embody the essence of Jackson during performance of Jackson's classics, and in the manner in which he interacted with the audience between numbers.
The Ultimate Thriller which had already performed to an audience of thousands of MJ fans overseas, arrived at the legendary Apollo Theater--where Jackson along with his brothers were discovered over four decades ago-- on the night of June 29.
The show recreates segments from Jackson's "Bad" and "Dangerous" world tours, to create a tribute to the legend in a show lasting just under three hours. Besides simply just performing Jackson's songs the production adds in video footage to help introduce different segments of the show, as well as using an array of lights, and costume changes to make one feel as if one is at a real Jackson show.
The show opens with a video clip of a manager backstage telling Sullivan --being referred to as "Jackson"-- that it's time for the show to begin, then the music intro from Jackson's History tour plays, curtain lifts, and Sullivan dressed as Michael (silver "Dangerous" tour jacket,black pants,leather shoes) appeared at the top of a raised platform behind the band to perform Jackson's 1991 hit "Jam" from the Dangerous album.
Within the hour before the 20 minute intermission Sullivan ran through songs such as "Wanna Be Startin Something," "Off the Wall," "Human Nature," "Heartbreak Hotel," "She's Out of My Life," (during which he brought a female audience member onstage to sing to her), a Jackson 5 Medley consisting of "I Want You Back," "Stop The Love You Save and I'll Be There," "Rock With You," and ending the first half of the show with "Bad."
The second half of the show kicked off with "Black or White," and ended up being the best part of the show due to the most audience interactivity taking place. During "Heal the World" a group of young children from the Uptown Dance Academy were invited onstage to move along with the lead performer, giving the children the opportunity to be a part of the show.
During "Shake Your Body Down To the Ground," everyone got on their feet and started dancing while Sullivan shook hands with some of the audience members who were standing in front of the stage. Three other big numbers during the second half were "Beat it," which includes a recreation of the gang fight scene, "Billie Jean", during which Sullivan launched into a very realistic version of the Moonwalk, and "Thriller" which included a video introduction as well as dancers dressed as zombies dancing onstage with Sullivan. The show concluded with "Man in the Mirror".
The show gave younger Michael Jackson fans who never had the opportunity to attend a Jackson show the chance to experience a simulation of what it would of been like to be at one of his shows--as well as giving older fans the opportunity to re-live their experience of being at an actual Jackson show. Sullivan made the audience feel as if he is indeed Jackson, by interacting with the audience; for example responding with Jackson's classic line "I love you more" every time the audience would shout "We Love You Michael."
Also maybe it was the energy itself being at the Apollo Theater, which helped inspire Sullivan to bring his performance up to another level. Sullivan said he had wanted to perform on the Apollo's stage ever since he was five years old. The Ultimate Thriller was definitely a success.