At the time of the interview Reece McConnell was one of the talented singers who play the young Michael Jackson in Thriller Live, the West End ‘musical’ that is really a celebration of Michael Jackson’s work.
Reece has been singing and performing since he was 9 years old and represented the Midlands at the ‘Festival for Stars’ where he was runner up for ‘Musical Solo’ (14 years & under) and praised by the judges for his great talent.
At the time of the interview, Reece was also part of the Thriller Live touring cast and is hoping to be a recording artist with his own record label when he’s older.
Reece has kindly answered a few questions about the show, his life and career.
When did you first realise that you wanted to be a singer?
When I joined the school choir at age 7 I realised that I enjoyed singing and that people enjoyed hearing me sing.
Did anyone in particular inspire you to become a singer?
My choir teacher encouraged me and when I first heard Rihanna I knew I wanted to sing like she does.
You were runner up in Musical Solo (14 years & under) at ‘Festival 4 Stars’, a UK talent contest, in 2010. A great achievement! Please tell us about this experience.
It was a great experience, I did Ease on down the road from the Wiz. I got through heats, then a regional final and was the Midlands representative at the national final in Glasgow. The judging panel is made up of record producers, national celebrities and performers. Darius Campbell was the spokesman for my act and he called me a little Usher and set for good things in recording or theatre. One of the judges commented I was like a little Michael Jackson.
Do you ever get nervous before a performance and if so, how do you deal with it?
I never get nervous before a performance, I love the reaction from the audience and it spurs me on. I worry a little about some of my quick changes but when on stage I am fine.
You perform in Thriller Live. How would you describe the show to someone who hasn’t been to see it yet?
Thriller Live is a celebration of Michael Jackson’s wide range of music, there are 30 hits and it is not a story of his life but a tribute to his inspiration. The dancing and singing always has a great effect on the audience and many times they are joining in. People always say it is even better than they actually expected.
What’s your favourite part of the show?
The Jackson 5 medley is a lot of fun, however I enjoy many of the numbers sung by the cast and sometimes wish I could sing them with them. If I was pushed for a particular favourite, the one I sing would be “Heal the World” and the cast “The way you make me feel”.
How do you like the costumes?
I have got used to them, they are not what I would like to be seen in the street with. However my “Heal the World” costume is everyone’s favourite.
What’s your favourite Michael Jackson song?
I quite like the modern stuff he did and I would say “Behind the Mask”.
Would you say that Michael Jackson is your role model? If so, can you explain why you aspire to be like him?
I respect the work Michael did and the messages he tried to get across. I don’t know if he is a role model, as our lives are so much different and I have no common threads but he is an inspiration and multi-talented and his music is a pleasure to sing and people love to hear it. Like Michael I would like to inspire people, especially children to go for their dream and believe.
What do your friends think about you performing in the West End and on tour?
They don’t really understand it, they just see it as missing school to travel to different places and sing on stage and get people to want to meet me.
What’s your favourite subject at school?
It should be music and drama but these lessons are awkward as I don’t think people know how to respond to me and expect me to turn up and know everything. So I would say that science can be interesting and I am good at maths so it is less of a hassle.
How many shows a week do you do?
By law I am limited to 4 performances a week, sometimes this is 2 matinees and 2 evenings within 2 days and sometimes it is 4 straight days. Sometimes it works out I do 8 in 7 days.
What’s it like to be part of the touring cast and to perform at different theatres around the country (or even abroad)?
The touring cast is like one big family and I am thankful for the opportunity to visit different places and experience different theatres. Also it has given me a different experience to being in the West End (where I perform when the tour is resting or at least one weekend a month) and working with different people (understudies, principals) therefore being adaptable.
Are there any musicals you would really like to be in (now or when you’re older)?
Would like to see Shrek and if there was a part I could do now then great if not it is one for the future.
What would you like to be doing in 10 years’ time?
The easiest question so far: be a recording artist with my own record label, singing and signing other acts.
Has anything funny or embarrassing happened to you on stage that you’d be happy to share with us?
I have gone onto stage and realised halfway through the Jackson 5 medley my zip was undone and added it to the routine to do them up.
Whilst in Denmark I fell down the stairs when I came on to get the crowd going towards the end, but nobody noticed they thought it was part of the routine as it was more of a stumble.
What music do you listen to on your Ipod?
Lots!!!!!!! At the moment Ne-Yo, Beyonce, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Jessie J
What do you like to do on a day off?
Sing (for which I get told to rest…) other than that Nintendo 3ds and Apple products fill my non-performing life.
And anything else you might like to add, maybe a message to your fans?
Never give up your hopes and dreams, always remember who you really are and never lose sight of that.
Finally come and see Thriller Live if you have not seen it and come and see it again if you have.
Thank you very much for talking to us, Reece. We wish you all the best for your future!
Interview by Sandra Palme (follow Sandra on Twitter: LondonTheatre2)
12th July, 2011