Jukebox musicals have always been one of the most popular varieties of stage presentations. From Movin’ Out, which features the reflective, down-to-earth, stylings of Billy Joel, to Mamma Mia!, a raucous celebration of Swedish dance pop sensations ABBA, to Rock of Ages, a tongue-in-cheek tribute to 1980s glam rock, the subgenre has seen its share of classic musicians have their respective songbooks interpreted for theatrical purposes throughout the years. But perhaps no artist’s music lends itself more perfectly to theater than that of Queen.
Led by flamboyant front man Freddie Mercury, the band transcended pop music with its operatic melodies, grandiose choruses, and bombastic attitude, while simultaneously crafting material that has been embraced by fans of all ages to this day.
Originally launched in London’s West End in 2002, based on a book by Ben Elton (The Young Ones, Blackadder, Popcorn), We Will Rock You tells the story of a group of outcasts who fight for the freedom to listen to rock and roll in a distant tyrannical future where the taken-for-granted luxury is strictly forbidden.
This week, all eyes are on the production’s eagerly anticipated New York City debut, taking place at the historic Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden from November 14 through 17. (Purchase tickets here)
The timing of the reworked effort, which started in Winnipeg, Manitoba in September, is ideal, according to the show’s current producer, Jeff Parry, who cites the success of 2018’s Oscar-winning Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, as a blessing for him and his Annerin Productions company. “Everyone thinks I’m a genius,” Parry joked to Royal Flush. “But I didn’t know about the movie when we put the deal together last year. We really lucked out.”
The multitalented Trevor Coll, starring as Galileo, also believes the live production has benefitted from the film’s popularity. “Bohemian Rhapsody has created a huge resurgence in the music of Queen,” he reflected. “And now, more than ever, people are coming together through their music.”
Accomplished female lead Keri Kelly, mesmerizing as Scaramouche, concurred. “People who may not have been huge fans of the group or maybe weren’t too familiar with them, saw the movie, became fans, and are now intrigued by the musical as well,” she opined.
Boasting more than two dozen of Queen’s biggest hits, including “Somebody to Love,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “We Are the Champions,” and, naturally, “We Will Rock You,” the production also features a new Musical Director in Stuart Morley, hand-picked by Queen guitarist Brian May to helm the updated version.
“I’ve re-Queened the score. I’ve made it more like the original Queen,” he told the Calgary Herald. “I feel this new version of the musical can be something not even Brian and Roger (Taylor, Queen drummer) thought it could become.”
With a successful track record of shows such as Jukebox Hero, The Musical (Foreigner), PFX – The Pink Floyd Experience, and A Night with Sinatra and Friends under Parry’s belt, the abundance of both critical and public accolades that the musical has received in its first two months is not a surprise.
“We thought Let It Be (Beatles tribute) would only last a couple of months and it’s lasted several years,” he proudly noted. “This show has been getting standing ovations every night so we’re really happy about that. We’re hoping this is just the beginning and that it has a long life to it,” he continued.
For those not in the New York metropolitan area, the tour continues its trek to other U.S. cities before making its way back north to Canada towards the end of the year, with new dates likely to be added if its laudatory buzz is any indication. After all, “The Show Must Go On…”
For tickets and more information, click here.
For more information on Annerin Productions, click here.