Jackson tribute licence to Thrill

Thriller: clockwise from front, Sean Christopher, Samanth Johnson, Ben Forster, AJ Lewis and Jayd-n Noel- Dominique
Thriller: clockwise from front, Sean Christopher, Samanth Johnson, Ben Forster, AJ Lewis and Jayd-n Noel- Dominique

IT was the defining “where were you” moment for our generation.

We may have only been a twinkle in our parents’ eyes when JFK was shot, and the discovery of Marilyn and her pill bottles was before our time, but for a generation of music fans we will never forget where we were when we heard Michael Jackson had died.

So when we were offered the chance to go and learn how to moonwalk with the cast of Thriller, Live! we jumped, shouted and danced right down to Leeds Grand Theatre to take part.

We were put in the trusting hands (or feet) of Sean Christoper, one of five incarnations of Michael currently performing his greatest hits in the musical.

The move is continuous, putting one foot almost on point and as one drops, you have to pull the other back. Concentration throughout is vital. Bursting into laughter, we can tell you, doesn’t help.

But we got there, both of us, and were applauded by the Michaels.

It’s hard not to feel the pressure when you have a room full of people watching you attempt to moonwalk for the first time. It’s even harder when five of those people are professionals, but undeterred we gave it a bash.

So if we thought that was difficult, how must it must feel to try and bring the King of Pop back to life in front of legions of his devoted fans every night?

To 30-year-old Sean it’s an honour.

“At moments you do feel like he would have felt, even if it’s just a glimpse into the icon himself,” he said.

“Everybody adored him. We try and bring him back to the stage every night, and hopefully we do just that.”

Samantha Johnson is the only female to play Michael, and as the tattoo on her ankle will testify, she is a die-hard fan. They all see the show as an important way of keeping his memory alive.

Ben Forster was playing Michael on the West End when MJ died.

“The Lyric Theatre became a shrine. There were tributes outside, people were leaving flowers and candles but the show is an amazing tribute to him,” he said.

Tour manager Phil Watts said the show had taken on a special resonance since the star’s tragic death at the age of 50, on June 25, 2009.

“His brothers and sisters have all seen it many times, and in fact he had been due to come and see the show when he was coming over to do the O2 shows,” he said.

“It is all about the music, having fun and remembering what a fantastic artist he was over so many years.”

Needless to say we tried moonwalking again at home, passing on our top tips to anyone who would watch.

In fact, look out dancefloors of Britain, we’ll probably be trying to demonstrate it again tonight.