Queen: Crowning Achievements
The Queen legend has continued to grow in the years since Mercury’s passing. The 1992 feature film Wayne’s World touched off a whole new wave of Queen mania by including “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the soundtrack, bringing Queen to a new generation of fans who hadn’t even been born when the band’s first records came out. Over the years, there have been numerous tributes to Mercury and Queen, and the band’s back catalog continues to sell in substantial numbers.
One of the most recent, and successful, Queen-related works is the stage musical We Will Rock You, currently a hit on London’s West End.
“The musical is just breaking every record,” says May. “I can’t believe it. Monday nights are packed now. It’s a big theater [the Dominion], like, 2,300 seats. To have them packed on a Saturday night is great, but to have them packed every night of the week is outrageous. To see people go away happy night after night is a dream come true.”
According to May, the idea to do a Queen-related play “goes back about nine years. It started almost as a joke: ‘We’ll do a musical next!’ But our manager, Jim Beach, kept the flame alive. We looked at various different scripts and ideas, but none of them rang true—particularly the biographical material. We found that very uncomfortable. We felt we weren’t ready to have the story of our lives, or Freddie’s life, on the stage. And although many of the scripts were good—and they may get used one day—they were not right for the moment. And then Ben Elton came up with the idea for ‘We Will Rock You.’ We jumped at it.”
A popular British stage- and screenwriter, Elton devised a story that takes place 300 years in the future. It weaves Queen songs into a plot about a global corporation stifling human creativity. May and Taylor served as the play’s music supervisors.
“It’s funny,” says May of the play. “And it’s thought provoking. It took our music into the future, almost by definition, at a stroke. Ben is an incredibly fertile creative machine. He basically went away and wrote it in a night, having run the idea by us. But we worked on it a solid year, of which five months was in the theater working with the actors. It was one of the most creatively challenging periods in my life.”
May adds that there are plans to open the play in Melbourne, Australia, next year and eventually to bring the show to Canada and the United States as well. “We’ve had an offer from Las Vegas,” he says. “We would like to go on and do the rock and roll towns: Detroit, Cleveland, etc. And we would like to be on Broadway in 2005. It sounds very ambitious, but you gotta think big.”
Conspicuous in his absence from the latest flurry of Queen activities, however, is John Deacon. “John is a very private person these days,” says May. “He keeps a low profile. It took awhile to get used to, but we have to respect that. He’s not in any way negative about what Roger and I are doing. It would be upsetting if he were. But, for instance, he came down and saw the musical when it opened in London and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He said it was great. But he just quietly didn’t want to be part of its creation process.”
It will be interesting to see whether Deacon comes out of seclusion for Queen’s 30th anniversary next year. But whether he does or not, May and Taylor seem to have plenty on tap.
“We’re in the midst of planning a lot of stuff. There will be the Greatest Video Hits II DVD. And we’re talking about a sequel to the musical. That’s never been done, but we’ve only used half of Queen’s hit songs in the first musical, let alone some of the other tracks. Ben has a great idea for a new show, which is even more intriguing than the first one. So that’s a possibility. I just think life is going to keep on being very busy.”
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