Michael Jackson’s Nottingham fans are in for a treat this week in the music celebration show, Thriller Live. One of them feels even closer to their hero as Savanna Darnell is a dancer on stage. A former performing arts student in the city, she speaks to Dan Robinson about making a dream come nearly true.
Growing up, Savanna Darnell dreamt about performing with Michael Jackson on stage.
While that fantasy may have ended with the legendary musician’s untimely death in 2009, she is now enjoying the next best thing.
The 20-year-old former Nottingham student is one of the dancers in Thriller Live, the spectacular concert celebrating one of the world’s greatest ever entertainers that is showing in the city this week.
“He’s just such a great inspiration so being able to dance to his music is the best feeling ever,” says Savanna, who graduated from the Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama (MADD), in Carlton Hill, after a three-year musical theatre course last July.
“My dream was to dance with Michael Jackson because I loved him so much and this is the closest I can get – it’s absolutely amazing.
“It’s brilliant being back in Nottingham for the show – all my college friends have been tweeting me saying they’re so proud.
“It’s so nice for them to come and watch, and great being back to see people I haven’t seen in ages.”
As a youngster, Savanna spent four years with the award-winning, Mansfield-based Cantamus Girls Choir – whose alumni includes Britain’s Got Talent 2014 runner-up Lucy Kay and Victoria Gray, a singer with former opera group Amore.
She was initially interested in singing and had performed in tours with her dad’s band, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, before landing an audition for Thriller Live.
Savanna had to learn and perform two routines in front of director Gary Lloyd at Pineapple Dance Studios, in London, before she got the part.
Recalling the moment she found out, Savanna says: “I was at college and we were rehearsing for a show when my agent called.
“I wasn’t supposed to be on the phone at the time but I answered it and all the girls followed me into the back room.
“When she told me I just collapsed on the floor and started crying. I got carried out into the theatre, the teachers found out and everyone was screaming and clapping – it was an unbelievable feeling.
“We go through a lot at college and it’s really hard and draining but it’s such a great experience – I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for MADD.”
Savanna, now based in Sheffield, spent almost a month in London for rehearsals, which lasted from 10am to 6pm each day.
The dancing group, which includes five men and five women, had to learn about two routines each day at full pace.
They started touring across the UK and Europe in October, and will perform in more than 100 venues by the time the current run wraps up in July.
In the show, Savanna is involved in every act – about 15 in total – and says Smooth Criminal is her favourite song to perform.
She adds: “I really enjoyed learning that one because we do all the moves in the video.
“It’s the same for Thriller, which is our final piece and we all wear the zombie outfits.
“I just think the show is so fun. People have told me when they’ve come to watch it that they’re so happy afterwards to have listened to Michael Jackson’s music again.”
Thriller Live is showing at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham until Saturday, January 16. Tickets £16 to £31. trch.co.uk.