Queen Musical’s North American Tours Debuts in Baltimore
by Tom Warner (Baltimore Or Less cub reporter, Oct. 13, 2013)
We had no interest in seeing the much-maligned Queen musical “We Will Rock You” – which in 2002 opened in London’s West End to scathing reviews before crossing the pond in 2004 for its lone American run in the more forgiving pomp-and-romp theatrical circuit of Las Vegas – which kicks off its first North American tour this week with a five-day, eight-performance run at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theater. But now comes word that Queen guitarist-cum-astrophysicist Brian May will not only be in town, but also on stage for the show’s opening this Tuesday, October 15th, at 8 p.m.
“They really don’t need me,” May was quoted telling the Baltimore Sun’s Tim Smith in a phone interview from Las Vegas. “It’s really a cast-iron show. But I’ve got to be there on opening night, and if I’m there, I would rather participate than just be an uncle to the show. I’d like to get out there and interact with the cast.”
(Read Tim Smith’s “Hail to the Queen” review at baltimoresun.com.)
“We Will Rock You,” based on a book by Ben Elton (whose writing credits include the hit British TV series Mr. Bean, Blackadder, and The Thin Blue Line, all starring comedian Rowan Atkinson) and inspired by the support of producer Robert DeNiro and his Tribeca Productions company, features 24 of Queen’s greatest hits in a simplistic sci-fi tale of a dystopian future where all instruments are banned and rock-deprived kids can only listen to state-approved, corporate muzak – until a group of rebellious Bohemians seek out a legendary guitar (hmmm, could it be a Red Special?). The production’s been called camp and overblown, but then so has the music of Queen. And while the story may not be the stuff of a Joseph Campbell-evocative epic “Hero’s Journey,” it features Queen tunes, so at least it rocks!
May is a musical supervisor for the production (along with Queen drummer Roger Taylor) and, going by the 66-year-old guitarist’s previous interaction with the show – a July 2011 performance at Birmingham, England’s Hippodrome (without Roger Taylor, who was “banned” from the Hippodrome after his drum kit ploughed into May during the finale there in 2009!), we can probably expect to see May strap on his Red Special for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (That would be a kind of magic, no?)
In addition to helping launch the North American tour this week in Baltimore, this month May will also publish his third book, Diableries: Steroscopic Adventures in Hell (co-written with Denis Pellerin and Paula Richardson Fleming), a celebration of mid-19th century “stereo cards” – 3-D photographs made exclusively in France beginning in the 1860s and depicting a macabre world of devils, satyrs and skeletons (“Diableries” translates roughly as “Devilments”). Like his previous 3-D book, 2009’s A Village Lost and Found (co-written with Elena Vidal, and for which the authors visited Philadelphia in July 2010 for a lecture and book signing) – which collected the photographs of 1850s stereo photographer T. R. Williams – the book will include a stereoscopic viewer designed by the brainy May, a stereoscopy enthusiast and member of The London Stereoscopic Company who received a PhD in astrophysics in 2006. May’s first book was Bang!: The Complete History of the Universe, co-written with astronomer Sir Patrick Moore and fellow astrophysicist Chris Lincott.
[Subsequent to posting this article, the Queen web site announced that Roger Taylor would also be joining Brian May for the opening performance of “We Will Rock You” at the Hippodrome. Bonus! – TW, BoL]
Listen to Brian May and Ben Elton discuss “We Will Rock You” at Broadway.com.
Diableries (The London Stereoscopic Company)
The Midnight Archive: Stereoscopic Terror (Diableries)
Brian May at Free Library of Philadelphia (Accelerated Decrepitude)