Queen guitarist Brian May, a co-producer and musical supervisor on We Will Rock You, fashioned around 31 of Queen’s greatest hits, revealed in an interview with Whatsonstage.com that his team have been approached about doing a similar TV programme for their musical, which celebrates its fifth birthday at the West End’s Dominion Theatre this month (See News, 25 Apr 2007).
“We were asked,” said May. “But we said no. We all feel that TV auditioning would be contrary to the spirit of our show. It’s actually an appalling lowering of standards, this whole TV-dominated culture. I promise you will never find us on some panel bullying and ridiculing young performers – I personally detest that kind of thing, and I think it’s a shame that the public puts up with it.”
Programmes like Any Dream Will Do, Grease Is the Word and last year’s prototype, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, are unhelpful and unhealthy for both the performers and the productions involved, according to May. “The idea that you can just pull people in off the streets to audition in public, and cast your show from this process, is a huge insult to all those young men and women who have devoted their whole lives to developing their talents, preparing for performing in a live stage show eight shows a week. How could you possibly expect to get the best performers this way? No self-respecting professional actor or actress would lower themselves to go in for this kind of humiliation. The best actors and singers will stay away.”
We Will Rock You opened to largely damning reviews on 14 May 2002 but defied the critics by going on to become a blockbuster hit, winning five of that year’s audience-voted Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, including Best New Musical. Since then, it has spawned ten international productions and been seen by more than five million people worldwide.
“When you see We Will Rock You, you are watching performers who have dedicated their whole lives to the pursuit of excellence … auditioned with dignity in private, encouraged to find their own way of playing the parts, and very often rising to the leading roles within our company,” says May. “This is the kind of theatre you are supporting when you buy a ticket for We Will Rock You. You are striking a blow against the dumbing down of live theatre.”
Set in the future, We Will Rock You tells the story of a world in which globalisation has meant the death of real music in favour of computer-produced cyber stars, a status quo which the rebel Bohemians, harking back to the Golden Age of rock (embodied by Queen), are trying to overthrow so that they can write and perform their own music. An unintentional hero ends up saving the kids of Planet Mall from the tyrannical Killer Queen and discovers the place of living rock.
The musical has a book by Ben Elton and features 32 of Queen’s greatest hits including "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "Under Pressure", "Radio Gaga" and, of course, "We Will Rock You". It’s directed by Elton, choreographed by Arlene Phillips and designed by Mark Fisher and Willie Williams.
The show’s fifth birthday will be marked on 14 May with a special performance involving May along with Queen’s Roger Taylor and other “special guests”. Previous stars who’ve put in guest appearances in We Will Rock You have included Britney Spears, Beyonce, Pink and McFly. The London production is now booking through to October 2008.
- by Terri Paddock
Brian May talks more about the evolution and ethos of We Will Rock You in our feature celebrating the show’s fifth birthday in the current issue of What’s On Stage Magazine. An abridged version of the article is also on the website this week (See “Queen Are the Champions”, Features, 30 Apr 2007). Other features in the May issue of our sister print title include a head-to-head on the judges of Any Dream Will Do versus Grease Is the Word. The magazine is available now in participating theatres. To guarantee your copy of future editions - and also get all the benefit of our Theatregoers’ Club - click here to subscribe now!!
To read more of Brian May’s views on and myriad other topics, visit his official blog “Bri’s Soapbox” at www.brianmay.com.