Wild light show. Check. Ground-shaking SFX. Check. Killer soundtrack. Check.
When We Will Rock You takes the AIS Arena by storm later this month, if you want it all, you can bet they’re going to bring it.
“It’s going to be true to the Queen experience; there will be lights and sound and it will be this contained thing in a room that’s bursting at the seams,” says lead actor Toby Francis.
Francis, a Canberra born and raised actor, will play Galileo Figaro.
Aged 30, Queen has resonated with him since he discovered the music as a seven-year-old.
“I remember listening to Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time and it blew my mind, bouncing all over the place,” he tells Canberra Weekly.
“That was the first time I had witnessed these people doing whatever they’d liked and expressing themselves how they pleased.
“Rock at that time had this real theatricality about it; it was grand, big and verbose. And it married that with the spectacle of theatre.”
He says what gives Queen their widespread appeal is the way they made music inspired by their countless influences.
“They tell writers to write the book they would want to read, and I think Queen play the music they want to hear,” he says.
What Francis loves about the Ben Elton written show is how it takes the universal themes of self-expression, and respecting those who came before you, and then layers that with jokes throughout.
“It’s satire, essentially. It’s camp, as it would be with Queen, so it takes what it’s saying seriously but it doesn’t always say it in a serious way.”
Francis says he’s eager to join the cast and return home, having not performed in a musical here since he relocated to Sydney 10 years ago.
“I discovered my love of singing and theatre here and it’s where I did my first musicals.
“It means a lot to come home and be able to stand at the front of a stage and remember when I was a kid and I could only have dreamed of doing that.
“It’s a bit of a surreal thin;, it’s going to mean an incredible amount, particularly when I see my family afterward because they are irritatingly supportive,” he smiled.
Fellow Canberra actor Queenie van de Zandt, who plays Killer Queen, tells Canberra Weekly she became involved because her good friends, local arts legends Ian McLean and Stephen Pike, are part of the team behind the production.
“They just approached me to do it, and because they were involved I said yes; I adore both of those men, Ian and Stephen,” she says.
“The production team is made up of four of the biggest movers and shakers in the arts in Canberra, and I was really happy to come on board and support.
van de Zandt’s character of Killer Queen, whose name is taken from the eponymous song, is the dictator who controls the iPlanet, which is run by her corporation Globalsoft in a dystopian, vaguely Orwellian future.
“All live music is forbidden and everything is synthesized, commercial pop fed to the masses, and through that they’re able to control the population.
“She’s a really fun character to play; she’s this mad charismatic dictator who thinks she’s incredible … there’s a lot of people in history I can take inspiration from,” she smiles.
With 21 of Queen’s greatest hits to be belted out, van de Zandt says the scale of the production means it’s going to be quite spectacular.
“It’s going to be an incredibly entertaining night, a spectacular look at some of the best music on the planet and it’s a funny show,” she says.
See We Will Rock You at the AIS Arena, Bruce 7-10 November; ticketek.com.au
ENTER TO WIN
For your chance to win one of two double passes to opening night, email [email protected] with ‘We Will Rock You’ in the subject field. Tell us your name, full contact details and which character Toby Francis plays. Entries close 4pm 5 November 2018 and winners drawn same day. One entry per person. Winners must be able to attend.