Added on 20-Jul-2007
By Sarah D'Esti Miller
Press & Sun-Bulletin
The idea for a musical featuring the music of the legendary British rock group Queen is not a new one. "We Will Rock You" opened in London's West End in 2002 and is still running, as are productions on every continent except Antarctica.
So, the Endicott Performing Arts Center Repertory Company's made a bold move by staging its "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- as if performing the music of Queen wasn't challenge enough.
The show's creator and director, Joseph Foti, had a good idea, using Queen's "A Day at the Races and "A Night at the Opera" as the basis for a musical tale with no dialogue. Unfortunately that same concept seems to have boxed him into a corner, plot-wise.
The show is about two brothers: One becomes a drag queen; the other, a soldier. But there is no story arc, conflict, resolution or back story.
What is the relationship between the brothers? How about their home life? Why is the one in the army? Although many of the projections used in the show were powerful, most notably for "White Man," none of the characters is developed well.
The show is well danced on the whole, but while the choreography by Joseph Foti's wife, Emily is quite good in some places, it is practically nonexistent in others.
Performing Queen's music is problematic because of the unique vocal talents of the band's lead singer, the late, great Freddie Mercury. Some part of nearly every song is too low for women and too high for the men. Although a few of the singers in EPAC's "Bohemian Rhapsody" had some good moments, the show fell woefully short of the mark vocally with the most common offenders being problems with support and pitch and singers who tried to belt out notes that were right on their break.
Mercury had an astounding range and knew how to use it; his shifts from his chest voice belt to his head voice were virtually seamless (listen to him sing "... now I've gone and thrown it all away ..." or "... leave you all behind and face the truth ..." in the song "Bohemian Rhapsody").
Jessica Brookes, Darla Foti and Carli Liguori are among the best singers in the cast, but their bright, sunny soprano voices unfortunately are no match for the low notes of "You're my Best Friend." In his various roles Adam Ruff showed the most impassioned performance, but he, too, ran into some pitch problems.
This show also has a "Victor/Victoria" thing going, with Jo Whitney who is decidedly NOT a man, playing the brother who becomes a drag queen. Whitney's singing was fine for "Somebody To Love" and "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy," but, for the solo verses of "Bohemian Rhapsody," she sounded tired and choppy last weekend, lacking the plaintive, smooth legato needed.
Dustin Hirthler, like Ruff, had problems knowing where his break was, but in those times when he found it and adjusted his voice accordingly, he made a really nice sound.
Perhaps the best moments vocally were when Chris Becker sang "I'm in Love With My Car," at one time sounding almost like AC/DC's Brian Johnson, which was cool because the approach of this show doesn't actually seem to be to imitate Queen.
Of course in addition to the pyrotechnic vocals of Mercury, Queen was known for lush, crisp, clean harmonies, and here again, "Bohemian Rhapsody" disappoints. Nearly all of the harmonies were a total mess.
The supreme irony of all this is that, once again, EPAC has an outstanding -- and I mean outstanding -- band, under the direction of Kris Gilbert. With Paula Bacorn on keyboards and piano, Mike Whitney and Jake Bucher on guitar, Mike Cook on bass and Al Miele on drums, the instrumental parts were just superb.
I really wanted to love this show, especially since other EPAC rock shows I have seen were quite good, and I think this one could have been too. But unfortunately "Bohemian Rhapsody" feels more like an unfinished symphony.