Having sold over 16 million tickets in 28 countries, We Will Rock You arrives back on Australian stages on April 28!
Written by Ben Elton and the band itself, We Will Rock You uses 24 hits from legendary rock group, Queen, to tell a tale set in the year 2350, when live music has been banned everywhere.
The new Australian production features a stellar cast that includes Gareth Keegan (Jersey Boys, Next to normal) as Galileo and Erin Clare (Heathers, Phantom of the Opera) as Scaramouche. Brian Mannix, the lead singer of eighties band Uncanny X-Men, is playing Buddy, and Killer Queen is played by Casey Donovan (The Sapphires, Rent). Additionally, Thern Reynolds (Rock of Ages, South Pacific) is Britney, Jaz Flowers (Hairspray, Hot Shoe Shuffle, Fame) is Oz, and Simon Russell (ABC TV’s Jack Irish, Neighbours) is Khashoggi.
Speaking at a media event in Sydney late last week, writer Ben Elton spoke about the significant role Queen played in his own earlier years.
“I left home when I was 16 to go away and study drama,” Elton told the room.
“Queen were number one for the whole first term [at drama school]… They were really with me through that lonely first term.”
Elton is excited that, 14 years on from its first opening in London, We Will Rock You continues to delight audiences across the world.
“I think anyone who makes a piece of popular art is lying if they [say] they don’t want people to see it and hear it and enjoy it,” he said.
Asked about his own favourite moment in the We Will Rock You experience, Elton said: “I guess this is my favourite moment – not just recreating We Will Rock You, but creating a new We Will Rock You.”
As Elton explained to attendees, each production is a distinctly different endeavour.
“Each production of We Will Rock You is dependent on the spirit of the artists we work with,” Elton said.
“It’s never about coming in and saying, ‘This is how we do it! This is how it was done in London 15 years ago, it was a hit and we’ll do the same’.
“That’s how many musicals are reproduced when they go worldwide. That’s not how we do it. We reinvent it each time.”
Changes to the show itself have also been introduced over time. Recently, John Deacon and Queen’s hit ‘[You’re My] Best Friend’ has been added to international productions of We Will Rock You to further a new part of the story, which reflects the social media revolution that’s occurred since the show was originally written.
“I thought, ‘How about introducing a new element with Facebook, whereby not only are electric guitars banned, but friendship is banned, [where] only online friendship is seen as of value to society [and] individual friendship is seen as a revolutionary act’?
“True friendship can be a very private thing – sharing ideas with one special person you love or one small group. If all friendship is a general amorphous conglomerate of thumbs ups and thumbs downs, then we’re in big trouble.”
As the show’s central character, Galileo, Gareth Keegan can’t wait to take to the Sydney Lyric Theatre stage.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he told Theatre People.
“I get to be a rockstar in this show for three hours, and then I go home and have a cup of tea and hang out with my wife and my dogs.”
He adds: “There’s something nice about playing an anarchic character, and a rebel, an anti-hero, an underdog, and breaking the rules. There’s something really satisfying about that.”
Playing Galileo, Keegan exerts an enormous amount of energy, and he cites self-preservation as the biggest challenge he’s encountered while working on this show.
“I have to really take care of myself… It is so energetic and I’m running around the stage… It is exhausting.”
Keegan attended the previous tour of We Will Rock You that played Australia.
“I saw it when it was here last time [and] I loved it,” he said.
“I feel like it is a bit of an anti-musical, which I love. [It] breaks some conventions.”
He’s excited to be performing as part of the incredible cast that’s been assembled for the new production, including Brian Mannix.
“Brian is so funny and he brings that true rock ‘n roll vibe. The show talks a lot about the vibe, and he is the vibe for us because he’s been there. He’s done it… It’s really good to have him here because he kind of sets the tone in a weird way.”
Keegan thinks audiences attending We Will Rock You are in for an experience they’re unlikely to forget.
“It’s going to turn Sydney upside down,” he said.
We Will Rock You plays Sydney from 28 April before heading to Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.
For full season details, head to wewillrockyou.com.au.