Swindon Evening Advertiser: www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk
THEY say they are going to rock you – and boy, they’re not lying.
Every brick in the Bristol Hippodrome was vibrating as Wootton Bassett’s Jonathan Wilkes came crashing into town with We Will Rock You at the start of its six-week run.
And the audience was in for a huge treat, when Queen guitarist Brian May burst onto the stage in the second act to blow the roof off with his trademark sizzling guitar riffs.
Singer and actor Wilkes – and best friend of global superstar Robbie Williams – is in for a busy time.
As well as his role in the rock musical, his new performing arts academy in Old Town, Swindon, is officially opened tomorrow.
The musical, penned by Ben Elton and based on the music of Queen, is set 300 years in the future when earth has been renamed Planet Mall and is controlled by the Globalsoft Corporation.
Nothing is unique – all of the Ga Ga kids watch the same films, wear the same clothes, think the same thoughts and listen to the same music.
No-one has heard of rock music and musical instruments are banned. But there is a legend that one day someone will show them the way and rock will be back.
As the house lights went down the sound of Freddie Mercury blasted around the auditorium as the audience was taken to 2309 and Kevin Kennedy burst onto the stage before being trapped inside a bright green prism of light. Then out on stage came Johnathan as Khashoggi, the commander of Globalsoft’s police.
It’s a first for the star as he’s never played a baddie before but you would never have guessed.
His evil sneer was second to none and he had the evil laugh down to a tee. During his duet in killer queen (with former X-factor finalist Brenda Edwards) he showed off his vocal talent and proved why he’s landed the star role in so many musicals.
This is a fast paced and loud show. The audience gets involved from the start, clapping cheering and in some cases singing along.
If you love musicals, Rock, Queen or just fancy a good night out then this is the show for you.
Bristol Evening Post: www.thisisbristol.co.uk:
IT’S a surreal experience watching We Will Rock You and being part of the audience that joins in with those towering anthemic Queen songs with gusto, and then being whisked backstage during the interval to interview the man whose virtuoso guitar lights up those very songs.
The legendary Brian May is every inch the rock icon. At 6ft 2in he towers over me, and his trademark long curly locks and the glass of wine in hand are reassuringly in place.
It’s almost impossible not to be star-struck when confronted with one of Britain’s most famous musical figures. But I find there is nothing “starry” about 62-year-old Brian and his easy manner soon puts me at my ease.
As soon as we sit down, Brian is eager to tell me how delighted he is with the performance of We Will Rock You we have been watching in Bristol.
“I can actually say that I think this is the best night ever of We Will Rock You. I hesitate to say such a sweeping thing, but I am absolutely blown away by every single member of the cast.
“It’s such a joy to see that passion on stage and to see it connect with the audience. I am seriously blown away.”
Queen, whose hits including Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are The Champions and Don’t Stop Me Now have been loved by generations of music fans, are renowned for their live performances, originality and showmanship.
And, Brian tells me, the group, like the musical, was inspired from the outset by the enthusiasm of their live audiences.
“At the beginning, we were just boys with a dream, and we weren’t even very clear about what that dream was,” he smiles. “We just knew that we wanted to do everything better than everyone else had ever done it. Very precocious I know!
“But as time went on, the audience became more and more a part of it and I remember a very distinct moment when we turned around to each other and said ‘this has become something different’.
“We were in Birmingham around the time of our third album and although we hadn’t encouraged it, the audience started joining in with all of our songs – almost asking for what they wanted.
“So we decided not to fight it and we came to realise that Queen was now the audience as well as us. That’s where Queen came from and that’s where We Will Rock You came from. They were born out of the energy of our audience.”
Queen formed in London in 1970 after the demise of the band Smile, which comprised May, Tim Staffell and drummer Roger Taylor.
Staffell’s art college friend Farrokh Bulsara was a fan and after the band split he joined on vocals, giving it a new name and changing his name to Freddie Mercury. And so the legend was born …
Queen’s music has survived and prospered for nearly 40 years. It is testimony to their enduring popularity that, according to The Guinness World Records, Queen albums have enjoyed 27 years on the UK album charts – longer than any other musical act.
Their 1985 Live Aid performance was voted the best live rock performance of all time in an industry poll. And in the past eight years their music has gained a new generation of fans through We Will Rock You. “It’s great to look out into the audience and see such a vast range of ages,” he says.
The musical, written by Brian and writer/comedian Ben Elton, began in the West End in 2002 and has been playing to packed houses around the world ever since.
It went down in the history of the Dominion Theatre in 2005 when it became the venue’s longest running show – no mean feat considering it’s one of the biggest theatres in the West End.
The show went international in 2003 when it took up residence in Melbourne, and foreign tours have taken place in Japan, the USA, Canada and across Europe. But it wasn’t until this year that We Will Rock You ventured outside of London in this country.
And what’s more the touring production is, in my opinion, better than the show at the Dominion.
“It is something special,” Brian agrees. “Sometimes a company comes together and a magic happens – it’s a bit like Queen in a sense – it exceeds all your expectations.
“They’re a close knit company, which helps. There’s something about being on tour that does that. It’s touring that made us as a band. We were all making our music, but when you go out on tour you live and breathe that music. It’s very special.”