Interview of Britt Quentin to introduce Thriller Live tour shows in Cheltenham

The cast of Thriller Live in front of Everyman theater in Cheltenham
© Everyman theater – The cast of Thriller Live in front of Everyman theater in Cheltenham – From left to right: Britt Quentin, Kieran Alleyne, Rory Taylor, Ina Seidou

Last Tuesday Britt Quentin gave an interview to BBC Radio Gloucestershire in order to introduce Thriller Live tour shows in Cheltenham. Conducted by Faye Hatcher, the conversation is focused on the musical, the cast and his specific role of resident director. Britt Quentin especially highlights how the cast succeeds in living up to Michael Jackson’s music almost every day, with the singing, the dancing and the costumes. A few more days are left in Cheltenham: the cast will perform until Saturday 27th.

The new Thriller Live tour started last month in Oxford. And this week in England is the final one before a short break. It will then start over again in Portsmouth at the very end of December 2018. During the past 6 weeks, the cast gave shows in 5 European countries: UK, Germany, Poland, Netherlands and Belgium. And the 2 months rest will be appreciated by cast and crew before the beginning of a dynamic tour in January, with changes of venues almost every day.

In Europe you can already book your tickets for UK, Germany, Luxemburg, Austria and Netherlands. For worldwide fans, get ready to support them in Middle East during the coming months! Read all details about the coming Thriller Live tour 2019 countries, cities and dates.

Read all details in the interview transcribed below to understand how the audience is so important to performers

Faye Hatcher: Direct from London west end when it’s now in its record breaking 10 years, Thriller Live is a spectacular concert created to celebrate the career of Michael Jackson. It’s coming to the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham tonight and until Saturday. Seen by over 4 million people over 30 countries, Thriller Live takes you on a journey through the magic of Michael Jackson, 55 years musical history. Performer Britt Quentin who plays MJ joins us this afternoon.

Britt Quentin: Good morning… Afternoon actually!

Faye Hatcher: I bet you’re on a complete different time! Where do you come from? Where is the show coming from to be in Gloucestershire?

Britt Quentin: We were in Poland last week.

Faye Hatcher: What is the time difference there?

Britt Quentin: I think it’s only 1 hour.

First steps on American stages

Faye Hatcher: Let’s hear a bit about you: when did it all start? What is your background?

Britt Quentin: I’ve always been a performer. I’ve always been a singer; I’ve always been a musician: pianist, violinist. I’ve been on a stage literally my entire life. My parents pushed me towards that when I was quite young and I was happy to do it.

Faye Hatcher: You’re American, you grew up in the States. What part of America are you from?

Britt Quentin: I’m from the Detroit area, where Motown is from. But I’ve moved out to California in my twenties and lived there for quite a while and now I live in Las Vegas.

Faye Hatcher: You’ve spent quite a bit of time in the UK, in the west end. What do you think about the kind of musicals in the UK? How is it compared to America?

Britt Quentin: It’s about the same. The west end and Broadway are quite comparable. It’s the exact same vibes, it’s the same shows. Everybody either wants to do the west end or Broadway. People want to do one or the other because they’re kind of the same.

Faye Hatcher: But somewhere like Las Vegas – I’ve never been to the America, I’ve loved to go to Vegas – but I imagine that everything is ramped up 10% like “Come on we need more glitter!”

Britt Quentin: That’s about right! There are some terrific musicals in Vegas as well, because it’s kind of everything in Vegas but everything is just over the top. It’s exactly as you described, it’s very fashion forward, it’s very glittery, it’s very spectacular. The production shows are just like I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world.

Performing the music of an avant-garde artist

Faye Hatcher: Let’s talk about how you got to play MJ then. This is radio so it’s a bit concise but you’re a beautiful man, you’ve got an amazing face, you’re very slim. There is a lot of similarities between you and MJ. You can obviously sing and dance. Is that the 2 things you need to be MJ?

Britt Quentin: Yeah, definitely! It’s a tall order because Michael started singing when he was such a young kid. When he was 9/10/11 years old, he had the voice of someone who is 30 years old. That was the appeal and the draw that everybody had to him. Everybody thought: “I can’t believe this voice comes out this little kid!”. And then he’s got to start all the dancing, he became a performer and people are like “I can’t believe someone that can actually dance like that!” So it’s a tall order and in order to pay any kind of tribute to Michael Jackson you have to do both, you have to be a performer. He was considered the greatest performer we’ve ever produced as the human race, so you have to be able to do both to play Michael Jackson.

Faye Hatcher: He died almost 10 years ago, he would have been 60 this year, and he was 51 when he died. If he’d carried on living, where do you think he would be in his career at the moment? I think people are just really understanding now how flipping and talented he was. Do you think he would have carrying on making records and dancing?

Britt Quentin: I think so. It may not have  been exactly how he would have wanted to be 20 years or 30 years ago. He was always pushing the boundaries, he was always setting the bar for the industry and I think that’s what we would have probably expected from him at this point if he would still be alive. It’s tough to say what he would be up to now because he was always ahead of himself and ahead of the industry.

Faye Hatcher: The only person we can compare him to is Madonna in her 60s, a lot of a legend, and we’ve got this high expectation who artists like that, who have this amazing career. We still want more!

Britt Quentin: We still want more! And they somehow deliver that, they somehow give us more. I think because again someone like Madonna: she’s always pushing the envelope, she’s always ahead of the times. So everybody does what she does. She sets the bar and says “This is where the industry goes because it’s where I’m going”.

Faye Hatcher: How does she know? I mean she got great people around her that know what is going to be trendy. How do these people stay so relevant and connected to the world of what is going on around them?

Britt Quentin: That’s a good question. I think that people like Madonna or Michael surround themselves with creative people first of all. And I think they just had this natural gift that they just do what they feel, they do what they think people will like and they do what is true for themselves. They’re constantly pushing themselves. That’s creating its path for them to walk down which is what everybody ends up following.

Listening to Thriller song from Michael Jackson

Perfecting Michael Jackson style to blow the crowd away

Faye Hatcher: My guest this afternoon is Britt Quentin and he’s playing Michael Jackson in Thriller Live. There is a lot of people impersonating MJ in the world, some are good and some are really bad! So how do you know that you’re good at it? Is it years of practice?

Britt Quentin: I suppose it’s a bit of practice and the audience will tell you everything. If they’re enjoying it, that’s what you get, and if they’re not envjoying it you’re like “Oh I guess I’m not delivering it”.

Faye Hatcher: Have you watch a lot of videos of Michael Jackson dancing just to see how he does?

Britt Quentin: Definitely! The whole cast does it. Most of cast members are big fans of his. Even in the interval sometimes people sat around with an iPad or something watching Michael Jackson’s videos.

Faye Hatcher: I’ve heard some great reviews about the show:  people are just blown away, people just want to go back and sit straight away. What kind of show is it? Is it a Michael Jackson concert?

Britt Quentin: It really is. It’s definitely more of a celebration tribute to his music and his career. It’s not like a typical musical where there’s a story line, dialogs and we sing a song of his or anything like that. It’s actually just music. Every now and then we do a bit of dialogs that will introduce a section of his life or a particular album and we go into that album. But it’s not really a musical. It’s more of a concert so at the end of it, everybody is up dancing around just like if they’re at a Michael Jackson concert.

Liveliness for 12 costume changes during a show!

Faye Hatcher: When you perform Thriller, you will be dressed in zombies?

Britt Quentin: Oh yeah! We do the whole bit just like the music video.

Faye Hatcher: Wow! And how many costumes changes have you got during the performance?

Britt Quentin: Oh my dear God! I can’t even tell you! It probably varies per person but there’s at least 12 for me. Because the music starts from when he was young so goes from the Jacksons 5 era all the way up through. So we have to do 70s, we have to the 80s, we have to do more current days. It’s everything so it’s quite a few costume changes.

Living up to Michael Jackson 8 times a week

Faye Hatcher: If I’ve been up dancing a disco night I feel exhausted the next day. You’re doing this day after day after day. You must be so tired by the end of it. How do you pick yourself up?

Britt Quentin: To be honest, it’s partly the audience. Actually I would say in great deal it’s the audience. I understand why sometimes artists thanked the fans with a word or something like that. Because sometimes you’re just so exhausted, you walk up there and you just feel this energy, you hear those screams. You just say “Wow OK I have to turn it up for these people because they want to have a great time and they want to experience his music”. Whether I’m feeling tired or not is irrelevant. I have to turn it up. I have to push that button that says “Perform”.

Faye Hatcher: The singer Michael Bublé recently said about people who come to his concerts and these people spend a lot of money on his concert tickets. He said “I have to give the best show I can everytime I perform” because people have spent a lot of money to come and see his.

Britt Quentin: Especially when you are representing again the greatest entertainer, you have to live up to that.

Adjustments to the show made by the resident director

Faye Hatcher: You can’t do it 50%. And you direct as well. Have you directed the show that you’re in? How does that work?

Britt Quentin: How it works is: Gary Llyod, who is the man who has directed the show, has appointed me to direct it on a daily basis. Over a decade ago when he directed the show, he then appointed someone to maintain it essentially on a daily basis and that person is me. It’s my responsibility in large part to make sure that the curtain goes up every night.

Faye Hatcher: Do you have freedom to change and say “I’ve performed this and it would be much better if we did it this way”?

Britt Quentin: To a degree. The show does change quite a bit over the years because Michael’s back catalog is so big we can’t fit it all in 2 and a half hours. So at that point Gary will come in and make some pretty big changes to the show. Sometimes I might ask him “can I change this or can I change that?”. He trusts me to do what is the best especially on a daily basis because it moves and goes from cities to cities. Sometimes we have to make little adjustments because every theatre is different.

The audience at the heart of the show

Faye Hatcher: You sound really like Michael Jackson! During the show do you talk like him? Do you talk to the audience?

Britt Quentin: I get to talk to the audience with what I do in the show. I’m not really talking like him, sometimes it just naturally happens I guess! 

Faye Hatcher: It sounds an amazing show! If you’re not a hardcore fan of MJ, is there something for everybody? Something that everybody can enjoy with the show?

Britt Quentin: Yes, I think so! I definitely don’t think you have to be a Michael Jackson fan to enjoy it. I think a lot of people come away and they say “I didn’t think I was going to like it but Wow! It was amazing!”. I think because you feel the energy because it’s an incredible team with dancers, you feel the passion! It’s a pretty big production and it feels like a concert: it’s loud!

Faye Hatcher: What do you think of the Everyman Theatre? Is it the first time you have ever been to? It’s cute isn’t it?

Britt Quentin: It is! It’s a quite little theatre! We barely fit in there! We had to make a few adjustments to get in there but we made it work!

Faye Hatcher: Do the audience members come dressed up as well?

Britt Quentin: You would be surprised about how many people come dressed up in Michael Jackson costumes right in the front row. They know every lyric. Some of their costumes look exactly what we’re wearing on stage: They’re so hardcore! “I’m wearing it in the next scene: take that off!”.

You can listen here to the audio version of this interview of Britt Quentin that introduces Thriller Live tour shows in Cheltenham, starting around 13:10.

© Photo from Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham Twitter account

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