We Will Rock You’s creators talk about the show


We Will Rock You’s creators talk about the show
By Jeff Lunden

 Long before We Will Rock You, the rock theatrical featuring the songs of the super group Queen, became an enormous hit in London and throughout the world, it was simply an idea tossed out by an Academy Award-winning actor.  More than a dozen years ago, Robert De Niro, who’s also a film and theater producer, approached the surviving members of Queen about taking their catalogue and turning it into a musical.  “I’m not a fan of musicals as a genre,” says drummer/songwriter Roger Taylor, “so, basically, it’s nothing I was ever interested in.”  Still, he and the band’s two other members decided to give it a try.  Guitarist/ songwriter Brian May says the original idea was to make the show a biography of the late Freddie Mercury, Queen’s flamboyant lead vocalist, who died of AIDS in 1991.  “We began to get keen on the idea,” he explains.  But though they did a couple of theatrical workshops, the piece didn’t gel.  “We didn’t really feel comfortable with portraying our lives and Freddie’s life — it just didn’t seem to sit well.”

Enter Ben Elton, a multi-hyphenate stand-up comic-novelist-playwright-television writer, whose resume includes musicals with Andrew Lloyd Webber and writing for the cult TV series, Blackadder.  Taylor and May approached him about finding a way to put Queen’s songs into a theatrical setting.  “The reason they wanted to speak with me,’ says Elton, is “because I principally work in comedy – comedy with content.  Queen has always had an immense sense of fun, never taking themselves too seriously.  You can see it in everything Freddie did and the costumes they wore.  They were very aware of the sort of theatrical silliness of performance.”

Elton was a Queen fan to begin with, and appreciates the band’s continued popularity.  “Queen’s music is so ubiquitous and all-pervasive.  It belongs to us all,” he says.  But he “became a much bigger fan when I began to investigate the studio albums, after Queen approached me.”  Elton says the band’s songs – which fill two greatest hits albums – are “extraordinary; even more eclectic and varied than you would know.”   And, he adds, they have an “exuberance and sense of theater.”

The playwright and director crafted a satirical story set three hundred years in the future, a “tongue-in-cheek legend.”  Elton wove twenty of Queen’s biggest hits into the dystopian narrative, which features a hero and heroine named Galileo and Scaramouche, a villainous Killer Queen and a group of underground rebels called the Bohemians.  “I had this image of a guitar buried in rock, a world where rock music is banned, where live rock and roll is seen as the enemy of kind of computer-recorded industrialized-pop that is downloaded directly into the kids’ bedrooms, without recourse to their individuality,” he says.  “And so that was where I began; the idea of one last guitar with which rock and roll will be reborn, and live music will again be played on the planet.”

The man who wielded Queen’s axe, guitarist Brian May, says integrating songs into the story turned out to be pretty easy: “Strangely enough, it wasn’t that difficult to put the songs in there, because a lot of Queen stuff is about finding yourself, finding freedom, breaking away from where you are, breaking in to the world.  You know, “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,”  “I Want to Break Free.”  It’s kind of all there.  Most of the songs are delivered intact without even any lyric changes.”  May says they did change some of the lyrics to their hit, “Radio Ga Ga.”  He says it “becomes a song about what’s happening in the future; everything’s Internet, everything’s advertising, the kids have no freedom to think for themselves.”

We Will Rock You opened in London eleven years ago, and has played at the Dominion Theatre ever since.  It’s even a bigger international hit.  Productions have played in Australia, Japan, Spain, Russia, South Africa and Canada, among other places.  A sit down version played in Las Vegas.  Writer/director Ben Elton says the show appeals not only to fans of Queen, but to broad audiences.   “You don’t need to be a Queen fan to love it,” he says, chuckling.  “You do need to be a rock and roll fan – you do need to like your rock!” For the North American tour, Elton has made script changes, as he does for every production.  He says he adapts things for the individual skills of the actors cast.  And also, “because there’s a lot of reference to popular culture, a lot of fun to be had with the history of rock and roll and the grandiose sort of vanities of rock stars and their excesses,” he’s constantly updating the script.

As they have since the beginning, band members Brian May and Roger Taylor are actively involved in selecting not just the actors, but the musicians who will accompany the tour.  “We put together the band, you know it’s a completely live show,” says Taylor.  “And the band has to be very, very hot and we personally audition them.  It’s become a huge family of musicians, all of whom are great.   I love those guitarists who can do stuff that I can’t do! ” On occasion, May has been known to join the band for the show’s finale.

It was May who dubbed We Will Rock You a “rock theatrical” and the moniker stuck.  The show features the kind of lighting and video projections that are part and parcel of the kind of arena rock Queen used to play.  For the first time ever, Freddie Mercury’s epic hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is performed live onstage.  The original version featured 180 vocal overdubs – onstage the choral parts are sung live by the entire cast.  By the end of the show, Elton says “We’ve got a triumvirate of songs, which are stadium pleasers, and you can’t NOT be on your feet!”  Brian May says over eleven years: “It’s never happened that people didn’t get up and get into it.  So, it’s a joy.  I love watching it and I love being a part of it.”  Drummer Roger Taylor says he’s pretty sure audiences for the North American tour will react the same way: “I just hope the audiences leave the theater with a feeling of having been uplifted, having laughed a lot and having been ROCKED.”

WE WILL ROCK YOU is presented by Dallas Summer Musicals March 4-16, 2014 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Great seats still available! Visit http://www.ticketmaster.com/promo/yzbh33?brand=dallasmusicals for tickets and http://dallassummermusicals.org/shows_wewillrockyou.shtm for more information!

The Continuing Evolution of WE WILL ROCK YOU!

WWRY_MavsGraphicThe Continuing Evolution of We Will Rock You
By Ben Elton

Way back in the year 2000, I got the chance to write the book for a musical based around Queens greatest hits. Queen had a terrific sense of humour and also quite a futuristic vibe (Flash! Ah ah!). Also, a kind of legendary feel, so I came up with a comical Dystopian ‘legend’. Sword in the Stone meets the Matrix. Except the sword was a guitar.

The story imagined a world where technology is sufficiently advanced to allow the media entertainment machine to download the latest homogenised pop music, games and videos directly to every consumer on Earth at once. Thus creating a bleak and lonely world where the most significant relationship an individual has is with their personal computer.

Clearly events have rather overtaken what, at the time, still seemed a futuristic vision. The ‘wrist held’ communicators of our original design through which the kids downloaded their every influence are scarcely a futuristic idea now everyone has a smart phone. There was no American Idol in 2000, no YouTube and no social networking. For a story about the death of live rock through a Net empowered corporate media machine, these are not developments that are possible to ignore.

Back then, I called my brave new world Planet Mall, imagining Earth as one vast shopping precinct. A couple of years ago, I changed the name to the iPlanet. Nobody goes shopping in real time anymore.

And that’s the great and exiting privilege I have with We Will Rock You. Because it’s still running in London and now being produced around the world, I get the chance to update the script.

For example, in the story, our two teen rebels are captured and the police plant tracking bugs in their heads. These days we’re all tracked; my wife can see where our three children are at all times by looking at ‘Find My Phone’.  Most young people actually announce their whereabouts themselves on social networking. If the cops want to get someone they can just follow their tweets. Because of WWRY’s longevity, I get to play with these developments and work them into the script.

We even get to use different songs when it feels right. Queen’s hit catalogue is too vast to include them all, so for instance, You’re My Best Friend is not in the London show. There is, however, a scene where our two leads run away and discuss their loneliness and isolation. They realize that they are both friendless. These days, with the arrival of social networking, loneliness and isolation have taken on a very different form. It tends to be experienced not so much in the corners of cafes and schoolrooms but via headphones and a tiny screen. In 2013, it seemed ridiculous for two kids to discuss friendship without reference to Facebook. Young people now live in a world where it’s possible to have many virtual ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ and yet still be entirely isolated and alone. Factoring this into the story has added a whole new layer in which real friendship in real time is viewed with suspicion as almost deviant behaviour. The new dialogue with this very changed emphasis brought the song You’re My Best Friend into the show.

Likewise, the stunning outreach and ubiquity of Broadband which has occurred in the last decade has led me to introduce the rock anthem Now I’m Here (Now I’m There) into the evil Killer Queen’s repertoire.

Apart from addressing the broader social and technological changes, I also get the chance to update moments of topical humour. In the story, a group of rebels called Bohemians fashion themselves on half forgotten Rock Gods and so the script is peppered with references to rock and pop. Britney Spears for instance is the subject of a gag, but during the time of her very public emotional problems I took it out because what had been a fun and supportive joke suddenly felt dark and wrong. Happily, Britney’s back in the show but during her absence, Posh Spice, Hilary Duff and Jessica Simpson all took a bow. Clay Aiken was a presence in the early days but Idols come and go; he’s moved on and so have we. When I was looking at the script for our upcoming US tour, I put in a reference to Hannah Montana. Since then, Miley Cyrus has twerked her way to ubiquity and so the gag had to change. Twerking is in the show now of course, but I think it will have a short shelf life.

In the long run, the show is a celebration of live music. Something well worth celebrating in a world where the majority of ‘live’ music is a semi lip synched dance show taking place in a vast arena. And which the audience experience through a sea of camera phones including their own. Long live rock n’ roll.

WE WILL ROCK YOU is presented by Dallas Summer Musicals March 4-16, 2014 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Great seats still available! Visit http://www.ticketmaster.com/promo/yzbh33?brand=dallasmusicals for tickets and http://dallassummermusicals.org/shows_wewillrockyou.shtm for more information!

We Will Rock You Comes to Dallas March 4-16!





DALLAS, TEXAS…The worldwide smash hit ‘rock theatrical,’ Queen and Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You, built around 24 of Queen’s biggest hits, opens at the Music Hall at Fair Park Tuesday, March 4, 2014. We Will Rock You is produced by Queen Theatrical Productions, Tribeca Theatrical Productions, Phil McIntyre Entertainment and NETworks Presentations.


Single tickets for We Will Rock You are priced from $15-$85, on sale now at The Box Office, 5959 Royal Lane, #542 in Preston Royal Shopping Center, all Ticketmaster outlets, or online at www.ticketmaster.com.  For complete performance schedule or to purchase tickets online, please visit  www.dallassummermusicals.org.


Mini Packs for any four or more DSM season shows, starting as low as $61, are also on sale at The Box Office, 5959 Royal Lane #542 at Preston Royal Shopping Center. Mini packs are also available at www.ticketmaster.com.


Groups of 10 or more get a 15% discount and priority seating; please call 214-426-GROUP214-426-GROUP (4768) or email groups@dallassummermusicals.org.

This hilarious, multi-award-winning and record-breaking phenomenon is created by celebrated British comedian and writer Ben Elton (TV’s “Mr. Bean” and “The Young Ones”), and boasts a fantastic score of Queen’s biggest songs including “Another One Bites The Dust”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “We Are The Champions,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and, of course, “We Will Rock You.”


For the US production, writer and director Ben Elton has redrafted his original script to resonate with US audiences as well as reflect the cultural changes since he first penned the storyline.


“Apart from addressing the broader social and technological changes, I also get the chance to update moments of topical humor,” says Elton. New additions to the show include the most current pop culture references (yes, there is a Miley Cyrus twerking joke!) and the addition of a new song, “You’re My Best Friend.”


“There is a scene where our two leads run away and discuss their loneliness and isolation,” Elton says. “In 2013, it seemed ridiculous for two kids to discuss friendship without reference to Facebook. Young people now live in a world where it’s possible to have many virtual ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ and yet still be entirely isolated and alone. The new dialogue with this changed emphasis brought the song ‘You’re My Best Friend’ into the show.”


Tribeca producer Jane Rosenthal says, “With Ben’s updates, it’s almost a new show. However, in some ways, it was already ahead of its time when it opened in 2002. The overarching theme is a demand for individualism and intimacy in a world where everything is downloadable.”


Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor are musical supervisors to the show, taking an active role in

casting the singer/actors and musicians for every production worldwide. The cast features Brian Justin Crum as Galileo, Ruby Lewis as Scaramouche, Jacqueline Arnold as Killer Queen, P.J. Griffith as Khashoggi, Ryan Knowles as Buddy, Erica Peck as Oz and Jared Zirilli as Britney.

Rounding out the ensemble are Danny Balkwill, Samantha Berman, Bentley Black, Jessica Crouch, Saccha Dennis, Sam Digiuseppe, Suzanna Dupree, Daniel Greenberg, Stephen Hernandez, Nathan Keen, William Joseph Lewis, Brooke Morrison, Jennifer Mote, Katie Murphy, Jennifer Noble, Fred Odgaard, Patrick Ortiz, Jason Sermonia, Stephanie Sy and Kasey Walker.


The We Will Rock You band includes Rick Hip-Flores (Musical Director/Conductor), Brandon Ethridge (Assistant Conductor/Keyboards), Emily Marshall (Keyboards), Tristan Avakian (Guitar), Bob Wegner (Guitar), Mike Cohen (Bass), David Stevens (Percussion) and Danny Young (Drums).


The show is in its 12th year at The Dominion in London’s West End, one of London Theatreland’s biggest theatres, making it the venue’s longest-running production ever. We Will Rock You is now officially the 9th longest running show in the West End and was crowned the UK’s favorite show at the 2011 Olivier Awards, the UK equivalent of the Tony Awards, in a category voted entirely by members of the public. Outside of the UK, the show has now been seen in local productions in 17 countries, playing to an audience of over 15 million people.


We Will Rock You takes place in a future age on a planet once called Earth that is now controlled by a mighty corporation. Globalization is complete. Individuality is taboo. Everyone watches the same movies, wears the same clothes and thinks the same thoughts. Music is generated by the corporation’s computers, rock music is unheard and all musical instruments are banned. The hope of breaking free rests with an unlikely resistance – an alliance of rebel Bohemians, waiting for a hero to lead the battle to bring the power of rock back to the people.


“This show is all about legend,” says Ben Elton. “We take the legend of Queen and create our own fantastical story of young kids battling the mighty corporation who wants to suppress their individuality and their love of music. They need a hero who can help them in their struggle, and we have two – the dreamer Galileo, and the sassy rock chick Scaramouche. Guess who ends up winning?”


“Creating the show with Ben was very much a three-way thing,” says Roger Taylor. “It was great because he was a pleasure to work with and because he has such a fertile mind. He never stops churning out ideas.”


Brian May adds, “The amazing bonus is that Ben’s script subtly works as a metaphor too. People definitely come out of the theatre feeling that in a strange way they now know us, Queen, and our struggle, our journey.”


The original production of We Will Rock You is a Phil McIntyre Entertainment, Tribeca Theatrical Productions and Queen Theatrical Productions presentation.  Book and direction by Ben Elton. Music and Music Supervision by Queen/Roger Taylor and Brian May. Musical staging and choreography by Arlene Phillips. Production Design by Mark Fisher and Lighting Design by Willie Williams. Sound by Bobby Aitken. Costumes by Tim Goodchild. Tracey Flye is the Associate Director and Associate Choreographer of the North American tour.


Queen Theatrical Productions is a production entity created especially by the band’s parent company Queen Productions Ltd to handle the development and production of We Will Rock You.


Headquartered in New York, Tribeca Theatrical Productions was founded in 2001 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, the acclaimed producers of the Meet the Parents franchise, Analyze This and Wag the Dog. Through Tribeca Theatrical Productions, De Niro and Rosenthal co-produced, along with Queen Theatrical Productions and Phil McIntyre Entertainment, the theatrical musical We Will Rock You, based on the music of Queen.


DSM season shows continue March 18-30 with THE WIZARD OF OZ; April 15-27 with EVITA; June 3-15 with MAMMA MIA!, and September 2-14 with NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT.  For more information about Dallas Summer Musicals, please visit www.dallassummermusicals.org.


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For media information, including photos, interviews, or reviewer passes, please contact Jo Ann Holt

at joannholt@gmail.com or 469-363-7371469-363-7371.