Imagining a world without live music, this Queen-soundtracked musical hits close to home
23.06.2021

Imagining a world without live music, this Queen-soundtracked musical hits close to home

Freddie Mercury performs with Queen in 1982 - image by Steve Jennings
WORDS BY RIYA KIRAN

This show will rock you in a celebration of icons, with hit after hit!

A unique collaboration between rock’n’roll legends, Queen, and comedian, writer and director, Ben Elton, We Will Rock You is bringing pure musical entertainment to the stage.

Having been enjoyed by over 16 million theatregoers around the world, the musical is set to hit Ballarat Lyric Theatre next month.

We Will Rock You Director, Stephen Armati, shared with us how the tumultuous past year brought this special showcase together.

Keep up to date with all the latest music interviews, news and reviews here.

“We had to rethink the environment and we decided after the shit 12 months that people have had, they just need a good night out,” says Armati.

“Nothing too heavy and we thought something like We Will Rock You will certainly provide that.”

First debuting in 2002, We Will Rock You twists a collection of Queen’s greatest hits into a grumpy old man’s idea of the future.

The multi-talented Ben Elton has spent his career immersed in various worlds through everything from best-selling novels to West End plays and musicals.

With this project, he envisioned a utopian setting portraying an increasingly digitised world in which everyone is absorbed in their social networking bubbles.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, all live rock music and musical instruments have been banned by the powerful Globalsoft Corporation which has taken control, insisting to only bland, synthesised pop can be played.

“We’re bound pretty close to the script that Ben Elton wrote. He does give us a latitude to modernize, he appreciates that some jokes might not land as well as others because of the environment,” says Armati.

“Myself and the production team were fortunate to go over and meet him a few weeks ago. We spent half an hour with him and it was very exciting for the theatre.

“It’s not every day you get to be in the presence of a genius like that, and he was very giving with his time.”

The hilarious, eccentric musical tells the story of a group of bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same.

Under pressure from the dastardly corporation, We Will Rock You follows two revolutionaries, Galileo and Scaramouche to bring back the almighty rock’n’roll.

“It’s just relatable to what we’ve lost over the last 12 months – theatre, events, travel, and everything else. There’s sort of a bit of irony about it; a lot of people should be able to empathise with the story.

“Ultimately, the arts got everyone through COVID with most of us at home watching Netflix and streaming shows. Now, once again everyone has turned to the arts and now, we’re asking you to come back and support us.”

Ballarat Lyric Theatre’s We Will Rock You is an opportunity to groove along to all your favourite Queen hits, from ‘We Are the Champions’, ‘Radio Ga Ga’, ‘Somebody to Love’, and ‘Killer Queen’, to ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and, of course, the eponymous ‘We Will Rock You’.

“If you’re a fan, you’ve got 24 of Queen’s greatest hits throughout the show, even if you’re a fan of young lover’s type humour, you’ve got the Ben Elton take to it as well and it’s very smartly written.

“It’s not a heavy musical like a Les Mis or a Phantom, I can guarantee that the audience will be up and clapping and singing all the way through the show. People love Queen and people love Ben Elton’s work.

“It’s simply a good, easy fun night out,” promises Armati.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgzGwKwLmgM

The Ballarat Lyric Theatre has hosted awe-inspiring productions from CATS to Les Misérables, and now the best-selling jukebox musical, We Will Rock You

Armati has been involved with Lyric for some time now: 15 years on stage as a performer before he had his first show there five years ago. Through his time at the Ballarat Lyric Theatre, he has pursued his love of theatre, moving from performer to director in the past few years.

“I’m now 47 and I realised that the days of me playing the young love interest are behind me and it’s time for me to continue my passion in another realm.

“They were very supportive and willing to give me a crack at directing.”

Armati directed Jesus Christ Superstar three years ago and then, Jekyll & Hyde and Les Misérables last year. Now, with We Will Rock You, he is tapping further into his enthusiasm for directing.

The production company has continually pursued a goal of nurturing, developing, and promoting talent while cultivating an appreciation and enjoyment for theatrical art.

With a tight-knit, dedicated team at the helm, We Will Rock You has been choreographed by Armati’s wife, Katherine, alongside well-versed Musical Director Jane Nice and Kristiana Withers as the Choral Director.

“It’s all pretty close to the same team I had last year for Les Mis, with a few small changes.

“I think the attraction of Ballarat Lyric is that people want to keep coming back, and when they come back and do two or three shows, it’s a testament to the company.”

There are approximately 120 incredible people involved in the show, 46 of them constituting a lineup of exceptional local stage talent, with the production bringing in several new Australian names and faces on stage.

“We pride ourselves on supporting local talent, so we’re predominately local,” he says.

Montgomery Wilson, a local talent who has ties in Ballarat, but had been based in London for the last three years, will be playing the lead role of Galileo, while Vanessa Belsar, “a stalwart in Ballarat theatre” will also be leading the show as Scaramouche, guaranteeing a phenomenal show.

“We’ve got a very keen cast and lots of first-timers. I’m looking forward to when they walk into Her Majesty’s for the first time, lit up eyes.

“They’re going to be like kids in a lolly shop on Christmas day.

“Australia’s always had a bit of a love affair with Queen, so people just want to get involved and I’m absolutely blown away by what we’ve seen so far.”

With an incredible production team and some of the best musicians in Ballarat forming the incredible band, We Will Rock You is gearing up to be a ‘must-not miss’ production!

“We do it because we love it. We’re not here for the money because there is none, we’re just here for the sheer love and joy of performing.

“It’s going to be amazing to watch that, it’s part of the joy of it all!”

We Will Rock You comes to Her Majesty’s Ballarat from July 15-25. Head to the theatre website for more information or grab your tickets here.