They are coming to rock you in Queen musical arena tour
Queen guitarist Brian May talks to Lynne Brighouse about how the band's music made the transition into theatre.
WHEN Ben Elton first penned We Will Rock You, a show dedicated to the impressive back catalogue of Queen's music, the critics were less than complimentary.
It premiered at London's Dominion Theatre – one of the largest theatres in the West End – in 2002 and had a disappointing reception.
"We had the worst reviews in years, second only to Les Miserables," said Brian May.
"We had two very fortunate things happen soon after we opened. One was the party at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002, where we appeared on top of the palace with the cast singing Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions.
"The other was appearing on Michael Parkinson's TV chat show so people were able to see for themselves."
And word-of-mouth quickly grew to build We Will Rock You into a smash hit.
It now ranks as the longest running show in the Dominion Theatre's history, having recently celebrated its 4,000th performance, and is now embarking on a world arena tour that comes to Nottingham next week.
"No matter what mood people come in with, they come out laughing and smiling and punching the air so they can face the next day with a rock 'n' roll attitude," said Brain. "It's also a show with cross-generational appeal – from grandsons to grandfathers, it makes everyone happy."
But he added that, although it became a huge success, nothing was ever taken for granted.
"It's been hard work and a great learning experience. We built our team from scratch, so it was a pioneering adventure for us," he said. "Though Queen had been successful around the world for our records and tours, we had never felt comfortable in the world of musical theatre – let alone the idea of creating our own musical.
"It was a big step for us and we put together a team with a lot of rock 'n' roll people as well as theatre people.
The present show features Mig Ayesa as Galileo, plus some surprises too, including fellow Queen member Roger Taylor's own son, Rufus, as the drummer.
"It isn't nepotism", said Brian. "He's a phenomenon, one of the great drummers at the age of only 21."
Brian credits Ben Elton, who now directs the show, with providing its structure. The band looked at creating a straight history of Queen but did not feel comfortable portraying Freddie Mercury (who died in 1991) on stage.
"Ben's show is about the future – which allowed it to be positive and funny, but also had meat to it – and a degree of truth too as the world becomes increasingly enslaved by the power of marketing and globalisation," said Brian.
"It isn't a biography of Queen but the struggle against the odds and the team spirit somehow relates very closely to Queen."
WHAT: We Will Rock You.
WHERE: Capital FM Arena Nottingham.
WHEN: March 27-30.
TICKETS: Online at www.capitalfmarena.com, via 0843 373 3000 or from the venue.