We Will Rock You, the Queen-based musical that starts previews at the Dominion on April 24, and opens on May 14, held a press conference on the stage of the Dominion Theatre March 26.
Applause greeted the arrival of writer Ben Elton, co-producer Robert De Niro and Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor, as they rose up from below stage on a set representing the Tottenham Court Road tube station. As Elton quipped, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has a flying car — We Will Rock You brings you an entire public transport system!"
Robert De Niro's involvement comes through his production company, Tribeca Productions. He met members of Queen several years ago at the Venice Film Festival where he saw videos of Queen in concert, "and I thought it would be great to make a musical out of their story."
Ben Elton added that he had been brought into the project two years ago, after it had already been in development for four years. Brian May pointed out that "the idea of a basically biographical idea didn't work out, and Ben's script, where the musical is set in the future, was the real take-off point when things came together at last." As Elton explained, "This is, in a way, a cross between Matrix, Terminator 2 and the Arthurian legends. It is the future, where everything is organized for everyone, and music and fashion are bland and centralized, but there are some rebels for whom musicals instruments — which are banned — are symbols of rebellion and individuality, the modern equivalent of the Arthurian sword in the stone."
"It's a completely different musical," added Roger Taylor. Both he and Brian May said they felt Freddie Mercury's presence during the writing and rehearsal stage: "It's almost like he was standing in the corner, watching it, and knowing him as well as we did, we know he'd have loved it."
"Queen were a very theatrical band," said Ben Elton, "and their music, as well as having great wit and style, lends itself ideally to a stage musical. It has a huge amount of energy."
The show will use Queen's greatest hits. No new songs have been written for it, though the catalogue of Queen numbers has been adapted and reworked for the stage.
We Will Rock You is directed by award-winning London and Broadway director Christopher Renshaw and choreographed by Arlene Phillips, who directed two of Freddie Mercury's video performances in "Made in Heaven" and "Born To Love You."
The musical cost £7.5 million to stage and features state-of-the-art lighting design as well as spectacular sets and costumes.
There was a real electricity in the air during the press conference, where Mr. De Niro's laconic humor contrasted with Ben Elton's trademark speedy wit and delivery. Elton mentioned the international nature of the show's producers and that this also reflected the global influence of Queen's music.
After the press conference, the American producers were to have the chance to see the show in its entirety. As Ben Elton said, "They are hugely excited at the prospect of performing on the stage of the Dominion before Mr. De Niro and the other members of the production team, and we're really looking forward to seeing them. We've got a great show, and though we aren't complacent we are confident!"
The public will get its own chance to see the show beginning April 24.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow