Britt Quentin introduced Thriller Live to BBC Radio Essex in May. This interview is conducted by the journalist Tony Fisher through his memories and emotions from Michael Jackson music.
The resident director describes the whole show and all performers: singers, dancers and musicians, if we tend to forget them when they’re hidden behind the stage. This article sums up the talks between the 2 men that was discussed on the 25 of May 2018.
A chronological tribute to Michael Jackson
– Tony Fisher: Where do we start? Michael Jackson! How old were you when you first got to hear Michael Jackson’s songs?
– Britt Quentin: Not to tell my age but I was singing Michael Jackson music when Michael Jackson was singing Michael Jackson’s young music.
– Tony Fisher: The repertoire of the Jacksons songs is incredible as is his voice of course. We grew up listening to the changes because he started very young and certainly had a more established sound as he got over. Does the show work chronologically?
– Britt Quentin: Yes basically. It does cover a lot of the Jacksons Five era as well as the Jacksons era when they grew up a little bit and then obviously when he became a solo artist. It’s essentially chronologically, not exactly. It’s more like a tribute to Michael Jackson’s music, it’s less like a musical and it’s actually more like a concert than anything.
– Tony Fisher: Few people got to see Jackson in concert. We were waiting for another one which really never happened. So there are many moments that we didn’t get chance to see which of course is a huge pity. So this is a real chance for people to get that Jackson experience live I suppose?
– Britt Quentin: That’s right.
Dancing at the center of the show
– Tony Fisher: How do you go about with dancing? How is your moon dancing?
– Britt Quentin: It’s alright. There will never be another Michael but most of the boys in the show have to do it. Mine is OK. It’s not Michael’s but I’ll pass.
– Tony Fisher: I’m sure you will. I think you’re probably underselling yourself a little bit. Because this has been such a huge show. It’s their record breaking 9th year and it has been seen by so many people. Tell us about the performances as well, because it’s not only about the music. It’s also about the look of the shows.
– Britt Quentin: Yeah for sure. There is a lot of dancing in the show: there is a team of dancers underrated: they work so hard for what they do. They give to the audience that part of Michael. In the music videos Michael is always surrounded by dancers. Our show definitely has that as well. The technical aspect of the dancing, the choreographies are done by choreographer and director Gary Llyod. It’s what you would see Michael doing in his music videos. We reenact a lot of his music videos on the stage. That’s kind of fun. It’s a lot of work.
An elaborated scenery for Michael Jackson most iconic moments
– Tony Fisher: Yes, it shows on stage. You can always tell when work as been put into something like that. You have real aficionados coming. I would imagine the shows that you’ve done: you’ve seen some real Michael Jackson fans, people that know his stuff inside and out.
– Britt Quentin: Definitely! Most of singers in the show over the years have all been massive fans of Michael as well. Most of the dancers as well. It’s funny to sit around in the interval and hear people talking about their favorite Michael Jackson videos and live performances.
– Tony Fisher: Talking of those videos, there were so many iconic moments. There was of course the Thriller video itself and I remember that being released back in 1983 by John Landis. It’s just incredible how the movements are, with the zombie moves and everything as well. Is that something else that you replicate on stage?
– Britt Quentin: Of course yes.
– Tony Fisher: Have you got the red suits as well?
– Britt Quentin: Yes, there is the red jeans and the plastic leather red jacket with the black stripes. It’s all there!
Singers, dancers and musicians
– Tony Fisher: People remember that so well! Going back to Michael’s voice, he had a way with him when he was singing certain songs. The one that always strike me was “She’s out of my life”. I don’t know whether that’s in the show or not, from “Off the wall” album, but there is a moment when – and I don’t have ever heard it ever since – where you can feel him feeling the song. He’s literally living through that. How do you manage to replicate that kind of emotion in the performance?
– Britt Quentin: Luckily, because most of the singers are fans of his, we don’t take this lively. Unfortunately Michael isn’t with us anymore so we have to go out there and deliver his songs for people who miss him and who respected him. Luckily the guy who sings this song right now is trained in theater. He captures this emotion every night, 8 times a week. He’s also a big Michael fan. Maybe it’s not been easy for others but it’s very easy for him. According to Quincy Jones, every time that Michael took in that song, he cried. So you have to live up to that emotion, you have to be able to deliver that song in respect the way that Michael says “This is the way that it should be delivered: I recorded it this way, I left it on the album”. It has to be respected.
– Tony Fisher: Talking of Quincy Jones, he was the iconic producer of probably 2 of Michael biggest albums: Thriller and Off the wall. There was a relationship between the 2 of them, musically. How do you go with replicating that music? Because it’s so big, it’s massive!
– Britt Quentin: Luckily we have an incredible live band playing the music for us every night in the show. They’re visually also part of the show as well. I am not one of the musicians of the show but I would think that you also have to be a fan of his music because it was all emotional music as well, not just a vocal performance. When you hear the story about the recording sessions and you just think “Wow I wish I could have been there” just to be part of that energy. Our band does a really good job of capturing that part of Michael’s music as well.
Trying to reach the strongest emotions
– Tony Fisher: There are so many magical moments. You take a track for instance like “Wanna be starting something” has an incredible baseline which goes all the way through. And then in “Beat it” you’ve got these Eddie Van Halen amazing guitars. And you forget when you look through the Jackson catalog. How much he did? He was prolific!
– Britt Quentin: Yes and I think that’s what people probably come away with when they see the show. It’s just over 2 hours of “Oh I remember that!”, “Oh I forgot that!”, “Oh he did that!” or “I remember that video!”. It’s almost the walk down memory lane for almost 2 hours. You just forget how much he did, how much he influenced the industry and how much you respected him in a way that you maybe forgot that you did. It’s a great experience as a performer.
– Tony Fisher: Is there a particular moment for you where literally the hairs at the back of your neck stand up? Is there one song or one moment within the show when you think “This is really nailing it!”?
– Britt Quentin: Right now it’s “Earth song”. It used to be in the show when the show opened 9 years ago and it left and then it’s come back recently. It’s just the effect that it has on people. The people often have teary eyes or are singing along or crying through this song. It was quite an emotional song for Michael as well. So it’s that one for me, right now, just to see people react to it. It’s a sort of special live moment when you realize that we can do something special. It’s a thing you don’t experience that much in theatres.
– Tony Fisher: You’ve painted the picture wonderfully again with “Earth song”. It starts on the keyboard really simply… And it builds, and it builds and then you get almost gospel towards the end.
– Britt Quentin: Gospel, rocky and by the time you get to the end he’s singing from a place that most of us only dream of singing from. It’s gone from the basic piano all the way up to this sort of gospel, rock ending. The emotion is at its finest.
© Source photo: BH Live Tickets Instagram page