Added on 09-Aug-2003
Understatement? Freddie Mercury, frontman for the 1970s/80s rock band Queen, didn't believe in the concept. There was the big moustache, the elaborate songs, the grand gestures, the many lovers and the massive concerts.You suspect, then, that the man whose name seemed always to be preceded by the word flamboyant when he was mentioned in family newspapers, would be feeling more than a little chuffed at the moment.
You see, we are in the midst of an excess of Queen.
Not only is there a musical based on Queen songs, which opened on Thursday in Melbourne (watched by Victorian powerbrokers such as Michael Kroger, Jeff Kennett, Steve Vizard and, well, Lillian Frank) but next month a symphonic work based on Queen songs will be performed by Sydney's Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia Choir.
No, really. It's written by British composer Tolga Kashif, set in six movements, draws on "musical themes" from 13 Queen songs and has been described (by Queen's Brian May, admittedly) as a cross between Tchaikovsky, Holst and Mussorgsky.
But wait, there's more. A DVD is now available of Queen's career-defining concert before 100,000-odd fans at Wembley Stadium in 1986. And later this month a tribute band from Britain will play, not at a suburban RSL - the usual haunt of the cover band - but at the Enmore Theatre. You know, where proper bands play.
With more Queen business going on than during a royal tour there's a danger a musical could get lost in the clamour. Luckily for We Will Rock You - script by Ben Elton; music and lyrics by Queen - volume, spectacle and a never-ending parade of hit songs can make up for a lot. Throw in a couple of John Farnham gags and you're set.
And it is the spectacle, the kind of rock parade on which Queen built their live reputation, that is the lasting impression from this show, which will move to Sydney later this year.
While Elton's script is overloaded with one-liners, the rollcall of familiar songs pumped through a concert-class sound system, backed by extravagant lighting and augmented by large video screens, is the backbone of We Will Rock You.
It was exhilarating enough for Queen members May and Roger Taylor to be so fired up they joined the band playing at the opening-night party. Amusingly, rather than Queen songs, May and Taylor rolled out several songs by the only band who could out-excess Queen, Led Zeppelin. Wonder what Freddie made of that?