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Starring roles for first graduates of the Thriller Live MJ Academy

Theatre news

FOUR boys will have starring roles in the hit West End show Thriller Live as the first successful graduates of the Thriller Live MJ Academy.

Producers launched the afterschool academy last year to train young boys to take on the demanding role of singing the songs of young Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 in the hit West End show, now in its fifth year at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Sixteen boys started the three-month training. After a successful final audition before the show’s award-winning director and choreographer Gary Lloyd, Producer Paul Walden, Executive Director Adrian Grant and Musical Supervisor John Maher, Torann Opara, 11, from Putney, Emmanuel Sakyi, nine, from Brent, Ramon Smith, 10, from Tooting and Brian Kotelo, 14, from Cambridge will share the coveted role in one of the most successful shows in the West End and on tour.

Three of the boys will be seen in the West End production from early April and Torann Opara will tour Scandinavia and the UK.

Thriller Live casting director Debbie O’Brien said: “We need at least six boys at any one time in the West End and the show is still touring around the world. The sad fact is that as soon as a boy’s voice breaks, he can no longer stay with the production, so we have quite a high turnover.”

Producers are now looking for candidates for the next term at the MJ Academy, and whilst prior stage experience is useful it is not essential as the Academy will teach successful candidates all they need to know to be a budding star. So if you have the talent now is the time to apply and see if you can make the grade.

“We are looking for boys who are exciting, confident and energetic,” said Miss O’Brien. “They have to be of black or dual heritage, aged 9 – 13 with an excellent unbroken pop/rock voice with a high range. They must be prepared to sing either ABC, I Want You Back or I’ll Be There at an initial audition to see if they are suitable for the Academy.”

To apply, contact Debbie O’Brien Casting via e-mail at or phone 01462 742919.

The MJ Academy opened its doors for the first time on Friday, November 9, 2012. Boys attend classes in singing and dancing every Friday between 5pm and 8pm, with terms lasting three months. The budding MJs received music tuition from the show’s Musical Director, John Maher. Dance classes are given by Dannii Hampson, and the show’s resident director, Britt Quinton.

Each child has to commit to three months of ‘training’ and at the end of the 12 weeks, a full audition will take place with the show’s creative team. There is no charge for the Academy once a boy has been accepted, but parents will be responsible, at their own cost, for getting pupils to and from the sessions each week. The new term will start in April.

A new booking period for the West End production of Thriller Live is about to be announced to March 2014.