Thursday, May 8, 2014

THEATER: We Will Rock You (November Issue 2013)

If you love rock and roll as much as I do, or even a little bit, then there is no doubt that you love the phenomenon that is Queen.  From 1973, when they released their first recording, until the death of lead singer and keyboard player Freddie Mercury in 1991, Queen was one of the most popular rock groups in the world.  They have released a total of eighteen number one albums, eighteen number one singles and ten number one DVDs worldwide, making them one of the world's best-selling music artists.  Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the band is also the only group in which every member has composed more than one chart-topping single. Those singles and their albums, over the top performances and their influence on rock and roll have made them legendary.

In 1996 at the Venice Film Festival, Robert De Niro approached Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor and asked if they had ever considered creating a musical based on the band’s work. Six years later, with De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s company Tribeca Theatrical Productions on board as one of the producers, We Will Rock You opened in London’s West End.  Featuring more than 24 Queen songs, this “rock theatrical” – now in its 11th year in London – has since played in some 20 countries and sold over 15,000,000 tickets worldwide. The first North American tour has just launched and will be at the TPAC November 12th-17th.  I am counting down the days!

British comedian, author, playwright, actor and director, Ben Elton, was chosen to write the musical.  In an interview, Elton said, “The reason [Queen] wanted to speak with me is because I principally work in comedy; comedy with content. Queen has always had an immense sense of fun, never taking themselves too seriously. You can see it in everything Freddie did and the costumes they wore; they were very aware of the sort of theatrical silliness of performance. So, they wanted a comedy, and I was kind of lucky that they thought ‘let’s talk to Ben’.” 

Elton wrote the musical as a satire. It’s set in a futuristic world, the iPlanet, where all entertainment is controlled by the industrial machine that produces it.  He says it’s not just for Queen fans, though.  It appeals to all audiences.  In an interview with Queen’s drummer and guitar player, Brian May and Roger Taylor, May agrees.  “We were conscious that if we just played to Queen fans, even in England, it would be over in a couple of months,” May said.  “So, by and large, we're playing to people who are not Queen fans.”  In that same interview, Taylor said, “I just hope the audiences leave the theater with a feeling of having been uplifted, having laughed a lot and having been ROCKED!”

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