From the comedic genius of Ben Elton, and the music powerhouse that is Queen, We Will Rock You comes screaming into the 800+ seat theatre at Bunjil Place this June for a strictly limited engagement. Presented by Windmill Theatre Company, one of Melbourne’s longest running community theatre organisations, with a legacy of putting shows to stage that extends for more than 50 years, We Will Rock You promises to be the lighting rod that stakes their claim for the next 50.
For the uninitiated We Will Rock You is set in a distant dystopian future, where all is ruled by the arch Globalsoft Corporation, and individuality (and music) has been slowly crushed into a tastefully prepackaged resource. We track the movements of a group who call themselves Bohemians, defenders of a free exchange of thought, fashion, and most importantly of all; music.
Theatre People took the opportunity to sit down with Jess Ridler during a brief break in the craziness of tech rehearsals leading to opening night. Jess takes on the role of the feisty, GaGa girl gone wrong, Scaramouche, a Bohemian who just ‘Wants To Break Free.’
What was your first experience of the musical We Will Rock You?
In all honesty, I didn’t know much about it before auditioning, but I listened to some of Queen’s music growing up, so I knew at the very least that I would love the score. I’d worked with Windmill on ’The Next Big Thing’ and had a very positive experience with the company. That coupled with the attraction to Queen’s music mean I knew I had to audition.
How much of a Queen fan were you before auditioning?
I had thought of myself as a fan of Queen, but there were so many songs of theirs that I hadnt heard before starting rehearsals! One of my favourite songs to perform in the show is ‘Hammer To Fall” with Aidan (Aidan Niaross plays Bohemian-in-chief Galileo) and I didn’t know anything about it before we started rehearsing.
Do you feel any pressure performing such well known and iconic songs?
Aside from the daunting experience of performing to an 800+ seat theatre, we are all performing songs that most people will already know and love and there are expectations from that. We have been given some liberties in musical choices we make, but the audience knows Freddie’s (Mercury) voice and all of his harmonies and riffs. Ive personally struggled with the balance of staying true to the original material and putting my own spin on some very well known hits.
Scaramouche is such an iconic character within the show, often held up as a symbol of female empowerment, did that impact how you approached the role?
I drew so much inspiration from a lot of badass women in my life, real and fictional. I was so drawn to Scaramouche, because she is such a badass. The dynamic between her and Galileo has been really fun to play because I would never be ballsy enough to say some of the thing she says to him. That being said, the development in their relationship is very sweet, and I hope audiences root for us both.
Do you have a favourite moment?
Honestly, any time Verity (Rose Brown) is onstage as Killer Queen, I am just filled with joy, and so much male empowerment. She slays everything she does and is such a joy to watch. Meat (Grace Sabbatucci) has a moment towards the end of Act One that is so out of place for such a hilarious show, and makes me cry almost every time, even after hearing it so many times. Quite honestly, the girls rock as hard as the boys in this show, and I am all about it!
How has the rehearsal process been for a show that is this dynamic and funny?
It is a challenge to say the least, not to break when I have scenes with Galileo and Buddy (Mike Fletcher). The two of them together have me in stitches constantly , and it’s not entirely apropos for the angsty Scaramouche to dissolve into fits of giggles.
I came into the rehearsal process a little late, after finishing up Shrek with SLAMS and everyone was so supportive and welcoming! Aidan in particular has been so great to work with, we have so much fun in the rehearsal room, and in a show like this you need a lead yo can rely on, and he’s been committed from day one.
In which ways do you feel connected to the story of the show?
I think universally, everyone has felt from time to time, that they on’t fit in with everyone else around them. I definitely came across my share of Gaga Girls growing up, so it’s fairly easy to tap into that teen angst.
Finally, so we can let you get back to a very busy prod week, is there any piece of advice you’d like to share? For all the Bohemians out there who might like to follow in your footsteps?
You will learn more about yourself in your failures than in your successes. In recent years, experiences where I have been knocked back for a show, or a part I thought I was perfect for, forced me to audition for shows outside of my comfort zone. Those experiences have been so rewarding.
We Will Rock You plays until June 24, 2018 at Bunjil Place. Tickets are available at www.windmilltheatre.com.au for the strictly limited season.