‘American Idol’ Season 2 Alum Trenyce Thrills in West End Michael Jackson Tribute
Starring in the London production of “Thriller Live,” the top 5 finalist joins fellow "Idol" alums Jordin Sparks, Constantine Maroulis, Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young in receiving high marks for their theatrical work.
When she competed on season two of American Idol over eight years ago against the likes of Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Kimberley Locke, she was just known as “Trenyce.” Now, Trenyce Cobbins has joined the ranks of past Idols who are starring in theatrical musicals. But she’s done it a bit differently than finalists like Fantasia, Diana DeGarmo, Ace Young, Justin Guarini, Jordin Sparks and Constantine Maroulis, who have all headlined on Broadway. Trenyce is in London starring in the West End musical Thriller Live at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. How did the top 5 finalist end up the female lead in a hit British show that pays tribute to the late Michael Jackson? Fred Bronson returns from across the pond with a full Idol Worship report.
The Hollywood Reporter: What did Michael Jackson and his music mean to you while you were growing up?
Trenyce:Michael Jackson is the epitome of greatness when it comes to being an all-around entertainer. That means writing, dancing, performing and philanthropy. He taught us how to love people, the planet, and simply groove, all with his music. As a child, I remember thinking he had magical powers when I would see him Moonwalk. He definitely set the tone for generations to come. There hasn't been another like him who could combine the passion of music and hunger for the world to be a better place in such a way that it touched continents when he passed.
THR: You're one of the lead singers performing Michael's songs in the show. But you're the only woman. How does the audience react to a female singer singing MJ's songs?
Trenyce: Most people immediately hold their breath, and I don't blame them! It's MJ! But knowing that, it gives me that extra push to be as great as I know I can be and win them over. And when I get a roaring applause at the end of the night, I know that they have approved! The good part about performing his songs for me is that I get to be the part of Michael that was bold, sexy, and in your face, as well as sensitive. I feel very powerful knowing I have the opportunity to stand there with three guys and hold my own.
THR: You’re the only American lead in the show. Lots of Idols have starred on Broadway or have done national tours in the U.S. How did you find yourself in London?
Trenyce:The opportunity first came up a while ago when I was doing Ain’t Misbehavin’ with Ruben Studdard and Frenchie Davis, but at the time I was committed to that show. A year later I was asked again to do Thriller Live but my manager wasn’t happy about sending me away when we were focused on me getting work in the States, so I passed. In June 2010 I was asked again and this time the casting director convinced me it was a good idea and would give me the chance to see the world and establish myself as an artist in another country, so I took the opportunity. I’m glad I did because I’ve seen and learned a lot!
THR: You were great in Ain’t Misbheavin’. Speaking of that show, it has something in common with Thriller Live in that both feature the songbooks of one artist -- Fats Waller for Ain’t Misbheavin’ and Michael Jackson for Thriller Live. How would you compare your experience?
Trenyce: Both shows pay homage to pioneers in the music world and take the audience on a musical journey. Thriller Live is a West End show, but to be honest, it strikes me more as a concert. This show allows me to tap more into my sexy side as well as my vulnerable side as a singer because MJ was such an emotional being. In Ain’t Misbehavin’, I played a character from the ’30s who was a lot more theatrical and high energy. This time, I am energetic for two-and-a-half hours straight with few breaks and I get to rock out and look hella' good while doing it!
THR: You said that you’ve seen and learned a lot. What has doing this show outside of the U.S. taught you?
Trenyce: It has been a wonderful experience. I love putting myself in the middle of something new and challenging myself to readjust. You cannot help but grow. London has taught me to enjoy sunny days and fresh air in the States a bit more. I do have a completely different view of the world now. No matter where you are, people are people. We all laugh and love the same!
You’ve also done a European tour of Thriller Live. Any differences between the West End show and the European tour?
Trenyce: Huge differences! The West End show draws more of an intimate crowd that thinks they have to be rather polite, but the audiences on tour know they are coming to a concert and scream from the moment the lights are dimmed. The sound on tour is amplified so it reminds me a lot of the Idols tour. I love the West End because I get to come home and relax in my own bed and hang out in the same place for a while. It gives me stability for the first time in eight years, as well as more of a social life. However, on the road you explore a different place every week so it’s impossible to be bored. The travel days are quite long, of course, and you can forget stability! But I love them both.
THR: What are some of your favorite cities from the tour?
Trenyce: Berlin, Paris, of course, and Monte Carlo, my absolute fave if you don’t count the $27 hamburger. The beach setting was stunning! It never felt like work. But to be honest, even in the West End it doesn’t feel like I’m working. I pass my face on six posters outside of the theater and it still baffles me. I’m in a West End show doing what I love and I’m exploring a new place and a new life – a different life. I am truly lucky.
THR: What is your life like here in London?
Trenyce: Quite enjoyable. It took me a while to settle in. Patina Miller, who is starring in Sister Act on Broadway, told me it would. But now I have my bearings and I’ve created a really nice life, one that will follow me for years because I have established friendships and professional relationships that will last a lifetime. I work every day except Monday, our dark day, and do two shows on Saturday and Sunday. I go to see other shows, usually matinees, with our cast. We hang out together for drinks and meals at Balans in Soho, right around the corner from the Lyric Theatre. I explore different neighborhoods and culture in London and still have so much more to see and do. I’ve done the touristy thing like the London Eye, the Thames, the museums and the tube. But what I enjoy the most is -- shopping! The fashion culture here is an art. I love it! My absolute turn-off about London is the weather.
THR: Do British audiences recognize you from “American Idol”? Do a lot of tourists from the U.S. come to see you?
Trenyce: Lots of people here have recognized me! I wasn't aware of the impact of American Idol in the U.K. until I got here. Many people wait after the show to say "I recognize you," "Glad you did this show," "You've grown so much since Idol," "You look better in person” – it’s quite funny sometimes, because I forget that Idol was ever shown anywhere outside the States, so when people recognize me I say, "Wow, what a great memory you have!" And of course it is always a pleasure to have people you know visit from the States! A little dose of home always makes a show that much better.
THR: Looking back, are you happy you were on American Idol?
Trenyce: I regret nothing about Idol. It was a great learning experience. I have worked my ass off to remain a working performer/actress and I continue to do so because it is what I love. Idol was a good start -- a great one! But I've been able to add actress, producer, writer and Grammy nominee to my resume since then and it feels great! I look back at the footage now, like a page out of your yearbook, and say "Why did I wear that?" or "Why did I sing that way?" But it is never a feeling of regret. I can look at the re-runs now and think, I'm grateful. And I am glad that I can see the growth I've made over time!
THR: What’s next for Trenyce?
Trenyce: I am always aiming for the next big thing, but God has a way of showing me a better picture than I could ever paint. I will never stop aspiring to make an album, but other than that, who knows? I wear so many business hats and they all fit quite nicely. My mom wants me to have a family next -- we’ll see!
Trenyce can be followed on Twitter @TRENYCE
and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/TRENYCE/148590316244