When ‘Darkness Falls Across the Land,’ Odyssey Dance Theatre’s ‘Thriller’ is Close at Hand


By Megan Fisher, Arts Writer


As concertgoers enter the theatre at Kingsbury Hall for Odyssey Dance Theatre’s “Thriller,” they are not be greeted by ushers, but by dancers tricked out as the undead. Dressed in artfully tattered dance clothes and under lights that vulgarly reveal the make-up, the undead move through the seats. They growl, snarl, shuffle, limp and improvise dance movements.

All of this works towards establishing an atmosphere of playful spookiness and engaging the audience. “Thriller” has one eye on the audience and one ear out for the reactions.

Variety Quality in a Dance Concert

“Thriller” is rather more of a variety show than a dance concert. Intermingled with dance numbers are filmed sketches, songs and aerial gymnastic routines courtesy of Aeris Aerial Arts.

The night began with the company of undead performing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” boldly re-choreographed from the original dance. While skeletons and witches make appearances, many of the dances are riffs on popular entertainment, and the audience will be able to see such familiar faces as Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, Annabelle the Doll, Chucky, Oogie Boogie and the Lost Boys.

In the 25 years since the first performance of “Thriller,” the company has accumulated a catalogue of routines that are displayed such as “The Children of the Corn,” “The Curse of the Mummy,”  “Salem’s Mass” and the wearisome “Jason’s Jam.”

A particular highlight was  “Dem Bones,” a cleverly choreographed rhythmic number similar to something from “The Muppet Show.” There are many other sketches that I have not mentioned, bringing the runtime of “Thriller” to something close to two and a half hours including an intermission, which was excruciating. Much more excruciating were the frequent attempts at comedy that were never less than obnoxious.

The dancing is technically accomplished, and pulled off with energy and verve. There are moments when the dancers have to mimic being possessed, or otherwise twist their bodies into gnarly positions, and they do so with tremendous precision and control.

Music Choices Don’t Support a Narrative Arc

The talent of the dancers is hampered by the choices of music. While Odyssey Dance Theatre uses Michael Jackson’s version of “Thriller,” the others are either inferior covers or instrumentals that resemble those found on royalty free music sites.

They struggle to find music that help to tell the story or convey the emotion that the story is telling. Many of the music choices left me baffled. What does a bad cover of Prince’s “Kiss” have to do with a mummy? What does The Beatles’ “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” have to do with a creepy girl that has a Chestburster from “Alien” type creature coming out of her stomach? I have no clue.

While I cannot recommend “Thriller,” the audience I saw the production with was never less than entertained, and I’m sure that there will be at least one number that will put you in the Halloween spirit.

Tickets are on sale now. The show runs through Oct. 23.


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