Who better than Freddy Mercury’s personal assistant Peter Freestone to put the Queen – It’s Kinda Magic concert tour into perspective?

This fully staged “concert experience” Queen – It’s Kinda Magic features over twenty Queen hits, including “We Will Rock You”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, “We Are the Champions” and many more. Originating in 2001, a worldwide search has resulted in a new cast led by singer Pablo Padin.

 

I caught up with Peter Freestone, Freddie Mercury’s personal assistant and best friend since 1979, who has seen the new cast in action. He filled me in on his thoughts: “I have been associated with Queen-It’s A Kinda Magic now for a number of years. This is generally because they have always strived to give the best!

 

“This new version of the show is no different. I first saw these guys performing some years ago in Montreux, Switzerland and I was impressed with Pablo’s (Freddie) performance. The whole band have become better and now this is a show for the world to see.”

 

I asked Peter’s specific input into the staging. “I am really ‘moral support’! I will comment on costumes, I will recommend different moves at a certain point, but these guys know what they are doing!"

 

Peter met Freddie Mercury in London in 1979 and the two became friends when Peter started working for Queen in November that year. In 1980 he went on to be Mercury’s personal assistant, travelling with him all over the world and remaining with him until Mercury’s death in 1991.

 

This massive firsthand experience puts Peter in a strong position to comment on the reaction of Queen fans to the tribute concert: “I spend a lot of time with fans from around the world, listening to what they have to say on many different subjects. One thing many of them agree on is that the guys performing this show are the best they have seen. It is the fans who matter in these cases, they are the ones who want to be entertained.

 

“I saw them in March this year and the whole audience was on their feet immediately, and didn’t sit down until about ten minutes after the show had finished, exactly like my first tour with Queen in 1979!”

 

Twenty years after Mercury’s death, the world is still grappling with AIDS-related issues, with gay marriage and gay adoption sparking debate and like gay marriage and adoption. I was interested in Peter’s thoughts on where Mercury would stand on these issues. Peter replied: “I think Freddie had a different mind-set. You must remember he had a very conservative up-bringing in a Zoroastrian household, where topics like this would never be mentioned. Also these weren’t things talked about in the 60s and 70s.

 

“He had very strong feelings where AIDS was concerned, but gay marriage and adoption were subjects he left to other people as they were not something that concerned him personally. He talked of Jim Hutton as his ‘husband’, but in a flippant way, not as something he desperately needed in real life.

 

“He was concerned about the AIDS crisis, not because he was suffering from the disease, but more so because of what it was doing to others.”

 

The musical We Will Rock You continues to be an extraordinary success on London’s West End. Benny and Bjorn from ABBA worked on Mamma Mia! personally but We Will Rock You was launched after Mercury’s death.  I was interested in what Peter thinks Mercury would have thought of We Will Rock You. “I am sure Freddie would have approved of the show; perhaps he would have added some new music, not necessarily grander, just new.

 

“Queen never repeated themselves when recording their music, each album was different, so in that way maybe there would have been a couple of new songs.”

 

In terms of theatre, I was interested as to whether Mercury dabbled in performing on stage as opposed to his concert performances. Peter told me about Mercury’s close brush with performing in an opera: “Freddie was once asked to audition for the role of Rodolfo in a Joseph Papp production of La Boheme that he wanted to put on in Central Park, Manhattan [Joseph Papp ran the Public Theatre in New York]. Freddie was annoyed that he was asked to audition, but also he said there was no way he would want to perform in 8 shows a week for 2 weeks!”

 

Mercury’s magnificent voice would have suited opera, and Queen are known to have composed on an operatic scale for their albums. Mercury recorded with opera star Monsterrat Caballe and it was not surprising to hear that he considered singing more opera duets with her: : "The Barcelona album came about because Freddie had the opportunity to record ‘the greatest voice in the world’ on his music. It really was the voice he treasured, as opposed to where it was used.

 

“Saying that, I know he toyed with the idea of recording a couple of operatic duets with Montserrat, though not the traditional soprano/tenor pieces. He loved the ‘Barcarolle’ duet from Les Contes d’Hoffman [The Tales of Hoffmann], which is sung by soprano/mezzo soprano, with Freddie singing the soprano part!”

 

Finally, I asked Peter for thoughts on the enduring popularity of Queen’s music and how he feels about new fans discovering the music. “I do believe that Queen’s music will continue to be discovered for many years to come. Most of the people I talk to about Freddie and Queen, never had the chance to listen to them performing together, for that you must now be nearly 40!

 

“Here in Czech, Milan, who has become a good friend, is 17 years old. He is coming up with ideas on how to use the music he loves to present different projects at his school. He wants to go round schools bringing AIDS back into the thoughts of young people. I love it when Queen songs are covered by popular young artists and their fans love the NEW music, not realizing it was actually written 30 or more years ago!

 

“I had a discussion with some Polish fans recently about categorizing Queen music. We talked through many different songs debating…. Is this rock….. is this pop….. in the end we all agreed….. IT IS JUST QUEEN. I think that is why the music will go on!”

 

Queen – It’s Kinda Magic opens in Geelong, Victoria, on 22 September 2011 before touring to Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle, Perth, Adelaide, Wollongong and Sydney.

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