Muddy meets Michael Jackson
Not the real MJ - but most certainly the next best thing. Britt Quentin has been moonwalking his way around the world as the star of 'Thriller Live'. We caught up with him ahead of his arrival in Woking on July 2.
Thriller Live comes to Woking next month direct from London’s West End where it’s had an incredibly impressive nine-year run. It’s hardly great surprise Thriller has maintained such longevity – it celebrates the life and music of the totally amazing Michael Jackson.
Muddy caught up with Britt Quentin – the lead vocalist and resident directer on the tour – to find out more.
Why do you think Thriller Live continues to enthral audiences around the world?
Because Michael Jackson’s music is timeless and there’s so much of it, with such a big fan base, that there’s a lot of people to sort of pull from. The show attracts people from so many different generations because of just how timeless the music is.
What can people who are new to the show expect?
It feels like a concert. It’s not a musical as such, it’s more like a concert with a live band, concert lighting and concert sound. There’s no real storyline, it’s just hit after hit after hit and at several points in the show people in the audience are up dancing, clapping along and singing along.
When you first joined the show in 2009 did you realise it would become such a sensation?
To be honest no because you never really know what’s going to work and what isn’t. But probably within my first year of being with the show I thought “This is something that’s going to be around for a while and people are going to enjoy it for a long time” because of the reaction I was able to witness. Seeing people react to Michael’s music as we perform it, I knew we were onto something special.
As lead vocalist, what’s your favourite song to sing in the show and why?
It changes over the years because Michael’s back catalogue is so big. Generally for me it’s whatever is the newest addition to the show so right now it’s Remember The Time. The song used to be in the show, then it went away for about six years and now it’s come back, which I’m very happy about.
And which song is the most challenging for you or the rest of the cast?
I would say Man In The Mirror is harder to sing than people might think. It’s not his highest-pitched song but it’s very long and it’s the same high notes over and over again. It’s very challenging.
What keeps the show fresh for you after all these years?
It’s the audiences. Travelling with the show on tour after being in the West End, it’s a different place every week, sometimes different countries, and it’s the audiences that keep me going and keep it fresh for me. We just came back from a few weeks in Scandinavia and they went crazy for it.
Have there been any memorable on-stage gaffes?
[Laughs] Oh dear God, there have been so many! Just a couple of days ago one of the dancers was doing one of her quick changes when a button came off her jeans. They thought they’d done a temporary fix so she could get through the number, but after ten seconds she had to run off stage because her trousers burst open. Me personally, I’ve had to go on stage with no shoes because some of the costume changes are so fast and it has to run like clockwork so you can’t miss your mark. So I’ve had to go out with no shoes on but luckily I was just doing a link and was only out there for about 25 seconds. I’ve also gone out there with no socks and I’ve gone out there and had to exit because my trousers ripped.
Why do you think Michael Jackson’s music is so beloved?
Because it touches people regardless of their age, regardless of their social background, regardless of their ethnicity, regardless of where they live, regardless of their religious beliefs. His music touches so many different kinds of people and has done for so long.
Are there things you’ve learned about him you didn’t know before?
You hear an artist’s lyrics and think you know something about them, but he was a bigger humanitarian than I think people realised. He genuinely cared about people.
If you could meet him what’s the one thing you’d want to ask?
As a singer and a song writer myself I’d want to ask him about his process – how he wrote and recorded music. He was such a pioneer in his recording techniques that I’d want to pick his brain about his process of getting something out of his head onto a record.
What lead you into the music business yourself?
My parents put me in a children’s choir when I was pretty young and that was my first real introduction to music and singing. I liked it, but I picked up the violin soon after that, played for about 15 years and that was my real love. I wanted to be a concert violinist first, then I got to an age where I realised that while I was pretty good at it there were a lot of people who were actually a lot better than me. So I decided to go down the music education route and that’s where I found my love of performing. That lead to me being in all these ensembles at university in the States and eventually I realised ‘You can actually do this for a living’. One thing led to another, one job lead to another job and luckily for me every job has led to the next one. I haven’t auditioned very much in my life.
You were with the M-Pact vocal group for more than a decade. What were the highlights?
Meeting and working with some of the people we worked with were certainly some of the highlights. I met and worked with my idols like Stevie Wonder. Natalie Cole wasn’t an idol as such but she was an absolutely lovely woman to work with. Ray Charles was really great too. Being able to work with people like that was pretty great.
Who’s on your wish list of collaborators now?
Probably Bruno Mars. I’ve been listening to his music quite a lot these days. I didn’t quite understand the hype at first but now I’m beginning to understand what all the fuss is about. He’s pretty great.
What are you most enjoying about touring with Thriller Live?
The thing I enjoy the most is wearing two different hats. I’m one of the performers but I’m also the resident director and the thing that’s sort of fuelling me right now is having to change things from venue to venue. Sometimes that can be quite challenging, with last-minute decisions to be made. We just did a week of one-nighters where we were in a different venue every night and they were all arenas, with things having to be changed at the last minute before the curtain went up to make the show work best in each venue. It’s fun to do that and I’m enjoying wearing that hat as well as the performing one.
What do you hope people leave the theatre feeling after a show?
I hope they come out remembering or realising how much influence Michael has had within our lifetimes. There’s so many songs that we do, so much that we cram in, with so many iconic costumes and so many iconic things that are solely Michael’s that I hope people leave realising just how big an influence he’s had.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t be without while on tour?
Manuscript paper to write music on because in my spare time I need to be able to create, otherwise I’d go crazy. This job is very demanding with the two hats I’m wearing so I have to have my time to myself where I can write music.
You’re a singer, producer, director and songwriter… What are you rubbish at?
I cannot play the drums. I’d love to be able to and I have tried. A friend of mine has a theory that because I’m ambidextrous it maybe confuses my brain a little bit and he thinks I should probably try the other side and be a left-handed drummer. But I’ve tried many times to play the drums to no avail. I’m a pretty rhythmic person but I just can’t do it.