Let it go: how Massaoke plan to bring the region’s biggest singalong session to Dubai
The British group will perform a number of modern and classic stage hits
From humble beginnings in the basement of a London pub to performing in front of teeming masses at Glastonbury music festival, Massaoke's story is as varied as it is colourful.
The UK collective are set to bring their sequinned costumes, dancers, light shows and fistfuls of classic tunes to Dubai World Trade Centre, with three shows – including a matinee – performed on Thursday and Friday, November 26 and 27.
Dubbed Sing the Musicals, the show has the group belting out more than 50 years’ worth of Broadway and West End theatre favourite and modern hits from musicals such as Hamilton, Mamma Mia, Grease and The Sound of Music.
Backed by large screens that project the lyrics for all to see, the event is expected to be a mixture of raucous karaoke and rock show.
It is also a chance for the audience to be at their uninhibited best.
"That is really where the fun of the show is," says singer Mark Nilsson, who will be dressed as a cross between Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman and a circus ringmaster, complete with handlebar moustache.
“The thing about going to see the big musicals is that there are so many great songs, it can be frustrating. You want to sing along to them but obviously you can’t, unless you are looking to be told off by the crowd and security people in the theatre. We remove that barrier for you with our shows. Come and sing along as much as you want.”
And dress up, too. Massaoke gigs are known for their colour off stage, too, with audience members dressing up as characters from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Grease.
Putting their mark on the classics
It was a vibe they were going for as far back as 2011, when the concept began as an old-fashioned late-night singalong in a London pub.
At that stage, Massaoke were a covers band operating under a different name. In order to forge a more personal link with the audience, Nilsson said the group passed out song sheets of '80s and '90s pop and rock classics so the crowd could sing along.
It was a masterstroke. While most of the audience knew the songs, clasping those sheets created a newfound intimacy within the gigs.
It was something the group ran with and it eventually landed them concerts so large that only giant lyrics screens would do.
Mat Morrisroe remembers one such gig well. He recalls sitting behind the drum kit during their 2019 Glastonbury set and watching more than 50,000 people sing along to their take on Brit-pop classics.
“Absolutely amazing,” he says. “Really, you can’t describe those moments.”
While the material in their show is more Mary Poppins than Oasis, it will be performed with just as much energy.
That said, Morrisroe vows the songs won’t be reworked too much. For example, the melody for Let it Go from Frozen will sound the same, he says.
“It's fun to rock them up and perform them in a way that we can have our mark on them,” he says. “But we don’t need to do too much, these songs are so well crafted and well put together. That’s what makes a great song and why it can last for a long time.”
A time for healing
Nilsson says that being back on stage is no laughing matter. In what has been a torrid year for many, the chance to be safely back with a crowd and singing in unison could be just what many need amid the pandemic, he says.
“We want to really feel a kinship with the audience,” Nilsson says. “They know the songs and we love playing them and making many people relive those amazing moments from their past. This creates a lot of moving moments in our shows. So we want everyone to come together as one.
"Hopefully, what we do, in some small way, will provide that little bit of healing.”
Tickets are available online from Platinumlist and begin from Dh175. Performances start on Thursday, November 26 at 8pm, and on Friday, November 27 at 4pm and 8pm.
Updated: November 26, 2020 02:31 PM