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Interview with Thriller Live Director & Choreographer Gary Lloyd

Gary Lloyd has fast become one of the UK’s most sought after Director/Choreographers. Known for his crossover from music to theatre, Gary Lloyd has worked as Creative Director with some of the world’s biggest artists on their live performances and arena tours, bringing his wealth of experience in latest technology and sound as well as his innate creative vision to the theatrical stage.

Gary’s first book My Life with Michael written about his time directing and choreographing Thriller Live! is now available online and in all good book shops, we got to speak to him about the exciting book and his career.

How did you get into dance, was there a particular performance you saw that resonated with you?

I started with Ballroom and Latin American as a child, eventually outgrowing competitions and taking an interest in the stage and musical theatre.
The stand out, most inspiring performance for me was when Michael Jackson performed on the Grammy awards in 1988 showcasing some of the ‘BAD’ album material. He performed ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and it was just incredible. This cemented the idea for me that I would definitely become a performer. I also saw him live in concert that year and it just blew my mind, I have not seen anything like it since.

Can you tell us about your new book: My Life with Michael what can people expect from it?

‘My Life With Michael’ is essentially a book about a life in theatre and the people in it. It’s an intimate behind-the-scenes view of a long running production. I have written about being given the gift of directing and choreographing ‘Thriller Live!’ after being a lifelong fan of Michael Jackson. It is totally inspired by Michael and all I had to study to create the work onstage but the book itself is about my life’s journey to the show and then how it has travelled around the world for over ten years. It also tells of how Michael’s unexpected passing put us in the eye of that storm and changed all our lives overnight.

Thriller Book
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What message would you like people to take from the book?

I think the message is one of aspiration. I have always had a clear idea of what wanted to do, I aimed for it, worked hard and achieved my dreams. Working on ‘Thriller Live!’ surpassed any ambition and after a fruitful career working with some of the most incredible names in show business, I am still going strong. The book talks about this work ethic, the struggles, my luck and also my love for the entertainment industry.

How did Michael Jackson inspire you?

Michael came along when I was a young male dancer in the Eighties, a tough time for anyone wanting to take dance seriously. He showed the world that you could be cool and look tough and still be a dancer. Guys loved Michael and he made it okay to want to dance and sing. He probably saved me many a beating at school! His attention to detail and his perfectionist attitude to his music and his onstage performances have inspired, informed and shaped my whole career.

Why do you think Thriller Live!has been so successful in the West End?

Aside from Michael being one of the biggest selling artists in the world with one of the most loyal fanbases, I think ‘Thriller Live!’ has been so successful because it is ultimately a family show. I have sat next to families from Spain, Japan, Russia, all over the world who can all come together and enjoy the show because it is all about the music. It is high energy, full of hits and no script to follow for those that don’t speak English. We also work very hard to maintain the quality of the show and ensure it is always top notch as well as having some of the best performers from the UK and around the world in our casts!

What number in the show: Thriller Live!is your favourite?

My favourite number in the show is ‘This Place Hotel’ going into ‘Dangerous’. I love the drama of my choreography going into the classic and iconic MJ choreography. I also love ‘Beat It’ for its fierceness and ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ for its feelgood factor.

What advice would you give to people who want to get into the same role as you?

Observe. Pay close attention to all those creatives around you, not just the directors and the choreographers but the lighting designers and costume teams, the sound crew and the stage managers. Everyone can teach you something and it’s amazing what you have to know to be a director. It’s not just about staging, you have to be in control of everything and to achieve that successfully, you have to know what you’re talking about in every aspect of the job.

© Michael Wharley Photography 2014

What is the most rewarding thing about your work?

When the audience love a moment, you have worked really hard on. Being able to write a book about such a long-term experience is proving pretty special too and has provided us all with a family and strong relationships that will last forever.

What’s been a funny moment for you directing/dancing? Any mishaps you want to share!?

Oh – too many to mention! As an actor on stage I fell out of a window on set during my entrance and had to deliver my lines upside down as my foot got stuck. I couldn’t move and had to wait for a fellow actor to come and lift me out. This was in front of over 2,000 people and right at the start of the show – I had the first line. There is a whole section of ‘Thriller Live!’ mishaps in the book so you’ll have to read it to find out all about those!

Can you tell us more about: The Holland-Dozier-Holland story?

I am currently writing and preparing to direct the Holland Dozier Holland story which is a fascinating look inside the lives of the writers who wrote most of the big Motown hits, particularly for The Supremes and The Four Tops. Eddie Holland is very involved creatively and it is going to be a very exciting project for next year, least of all because of its most incredible, legendary soundtrack. We are premiering the show in Canada in May with a view to bringing it here later in 2020.

Where can people follow your work on Twitter/Facebook/YouTube etc?

W: www.garylloyd.me Twitter: @garylloyd1 IG: @garylloydme

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