'We Will Rock You' rolls into Nashville November 12-17

Queen fans rejoice! Launching its first North American tour, We Will Rock You, the award-winning ‘rock theatrical’ built around 24 of Queen’s biggest hits, will rock Nov. 12-17 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s (TPAC) Andrew Jackson Hall.

Check out interview with director/bookwriter Ben Elton where he discusses how the idea for We Will Rock You started, why this is a 'rock theatrical' not a musical and what famous Queen song will be sung in its entirety.

How did We Will Rock You come about for you?

I’m known in Britain, and my comedy’s been around for 30 years or so, television, sitcoms, and the like. And so, that’s really how it came about, because Queen, a British band, knew of my work, when they were thinking about trying to find a theatrical context for their extraordinary songbook.  And the reason they wanted to speak with me is because I principally work in comedy; comedy with content. Queen has always had an immense sense of fun, never taking themselves too seriously. You can see it in everything Freddie did and the costumes they wore; they were very aware of the sort of theatrical silliness of performance. So, they wanted a comedy, and I was kind of lucky that they thought “let’s talk to Ben.”


Were you a big Queen fan coming into this project?

Well, I guess, everybody’s a Queen fan! Go to a wedding, they put on Don’t Stop Me Now. It’s difficult not to be a Queen fan. They are all-pervasive for 30 years. Their music from stadiums to discos to weddings are part of our lives. I left home when I was 16 to go and study drama, and Bohemian Rhapsody was number one for the entire first term that I was away from home. So it was kind of the backdrop to my sort of adolescent loneliness, adjusting to trying to be a grown up.

So, yeah. I was a huge Queen fan, but not, I think, more than anybody who likes good rock. I became a much bigger fan when I began to investigate the studio albums after Queen approached me. I’ve discovered [their work is] extraordinary; even more eclectic and varied than you would know just from their two greatest hits albums.


They are not a three-chord rock band, and they do have this sort of inherent theatricality that’s in so much of their songs. Did you feel like there were specific songs that you absolutely had to put in the show?

There are, but there also songs that absolutely had to go in the show that aren’t in the show. And the reason for that is Queen had too many hits! Even big bands, normally their greatest hits album is two or three genuine greatest hits, and a lot of stuff you never knew they recorded. Whereas Queen have two full greatest hits albums that actually represent top-five number-one singles. So, we don’t have every single song you might expect that would have to be in it, in it. Having said that, there are still 20 extraordinary hits.

But it’s interesting you should talk about their unique theatricality. I think when Queen approached me, I was so thrilled, not just because rarely have such great tunes been written by one band, but also because clearly, every note of the band is theatrical. They played with opera – then suddenly, half-way through Bohemian Rhapsody, they go from opera to the heavy rock driving thrash metal piece in the middle, before thrash metal was ever invented or thought of. So, their exuberance and intense sense of theater wasn’t just about the lights and the sets. It’s in their orchestration of the music.


So, you’ve got this portfolio, which is to put together a musical based on the music of Queen. How did you go about doing it?

It was a big challenge. The first idea was to do a Freddie biography. I was adamant that I wasn’t interested in being involved in that. I didn’t feel that that was the way to approach Queen’s songbook. I don’t think it’s Freddie’s story, for a couple of reasons. First, Queen’s music is so ubiquitous and all-pervasive. It belongs to us all. I don’t need to know anything about the triumphs and tragedies of Freddie’s life to be intensely involved in Queen’s music, because I’ve had 35 years of saturation listening like everybody else has. It also was very clear, because I knew a fair bit about Queen, that it wasn’t Freddie’s band. Queen is a unique four-person collective. Every member of Queen has individually written a number one. Yes, Freddie wrote Bohemian Rhapsody, but Roger wrote A Kind of Magic and Radio Ga Ga; Brian, We Will Rock You; John, Another One Bites the Dust. This is a collective of true artists and great individuals. And nobody knew that better than Freddie. He was the glue in the band, yes, but it was very much a cooperative, not this sort of preening front man people might think.

So, I said “I don’t think you should use Queen’s music in this way. I don’t think it’s about Freddie. It’s about us all.” But I didn’t have an idea yet. I was writing a musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber at the time; and also, I was directing a movie with Hugh Laurie. So, I wasn’t able to think about it then. And it took a year of gestation, but when the idea came, my feeling was that this musical needs to encapsulate the spirit of the band, the vibe of the band. Not the details – not about Brian building a guitar when he’s 15, or Freddie contracting AIDS, or any of the stories about the band. It’s about the whole piece.

And what’s the word you think of? You think of legend. Queen is legendary. They’re on an epic scale. So, I said “I feel we should invent a legend, but it’s got to be a fun legend. It’s got to be a tongue-in-cheek legend.” And eventually, [I came up with] a kind of Arthurian idea, mixed with kind of Matrix, dystopian, Metropolis, futuristic satire. I had this image of a guitar buried in rock, a world where rock music is banned, where live rock and roll is seen as the enemy of kind of computer-recorded industrialized-pop that is downloaded directly into the kids’ bedrooms, without any recourse to their individuality. And so that was where I began, the idea of one last guitar with which rock and roll will be reborn, and live music will again be played on the planet. And that’s where the story started.


I wonder if you could give the smallest précis of what the show is – the basic idea?

Well, We Will Rock You is a satire. It’s set in a futuristic world, the iPlanet, where all entertainment is controlled by the industrial machine that produces it.

It’s a fun satire, but with a kernel of relevant truth, in that it’s set in a world where the industrial entertainment machine is so entrenched that those who produce the pop music, and the movies, and the entertainment that the kids consume, are fearful of the kids producing their own entertainment and bucking their marketing cycle; their “American Idolized” marketing cycle of endless pop music. And some rock has actually been banned because of the fear that right in the middle of the release of the next great pop single, punk rock will develop and ruin everything. So, instruments are banned. The kids are no longer allowed to produce their own music out on the street, so a Stones or Beatles or a Nirvana or a Queen could never happen again.


I remember, because I was in high school when Bohemian Rhapsody came out, how everybody just glommed onto it very quickly and knew every word.

It was a shocker. Bohemian Rhapsody really took people by surprise. For starts, [it’s] a five and half-minute single! I mean, the BBC didn’t want to play all of it. They said we can’t have the second half of Top of the Pops taken up by one song. But Queen stuck to their guns. Freddie had this extraordinary idea for this multifaceted song, and it’s one of the strangest hit singles of all time. And the video plays a big part in the show: the holy scroll of ancient tape, this video tape that’s come down through the ages and holds the key to rock and roll. So, a lot of Queen’s iconic work is in the show, but you don’t have to be a Queen fan to love it. You do need to be a rock and roll fan. You do need to like your rock!


If you’re a hardcore Queen fan – and there are rabid hardcore Queen fans – what will you get out of this show? And by the same token, if you are somebody who maybe isn’t that familiar with Queen, what will you get out of this show?

Well, fortunately for my health, we seem to have pleased the hardcore Queen fans. But fortunately, for the health of the theater we’re in, we’ve also appealed to a much broader church. Even [with] a band as big a Queen, you can’t run a musical for 11 years. You couldn’t run it for 11 weeks! The hardcore fan base doesn’t fill theaters. You don’t need to be an absolute fan of Queen to love this musical – you don’t have to know their birthdays and what their star signs are, to love great music with a great story to go with it.

So, we managed to please everybody, which was kind of fortunate. And I think in the long run, you can only do that by pleasing yourselves. I wrote a story I thought was right for Queen, and they came to me, because they thought I could do that. And we love our show, which is why we’re still here working on it 11 years later, in New York, auditioning. We still work on this show, every production. And of course, the American production is incredibly important. I mean, nothing could be more important than having a crack at the States. Brian, Roger, and myself – we cast it, and we work on it, and we’re still hands-on involved after all these years.


You know, with a show like this, it could be that the songwriters just kind of say “here’s the catalog, go with God.” But in this case, Brian and Roger were very instrumental, literally and figuratively.

Brian and Roger, and myself have been a band of brothers for 11 or 12 years on this show. Often, the director may not even want the composers of a musical in the room. It’s not often as cooperative and collaborative a process as We Will Rock You has been, because we did it together right from day one. Brian and Roger loved the script and have lots to say about it. And they also are very interested in how the comedy is played and know a lot about it. And I had a lot to say about the music as director, and so we worked together and continue to personally supervise all the major productions.       That’s – not to show off or boast – but, that’s very rare. Normally, the great director does his London or his Broadway gig, and then that’s kind of it after that. Associates and assistants work on it. But it can’t be like that for us. We’re too close to the show. It’s too organic. It’s still growing. So, Brian and Roger are here in New York auditioning musicians, as they have worked with every band member who has ever played We Will Rock You. And they’ll be there when we do the casting of the lead characters, and they’ll have a lot to say about my changes to the script.

We’ve spent a lot of time together over these years, become very close. And John Deacon, the great bass player, he’s more of a private guy, but he was there. At the beginning he checked every script. He doesn’t get involved so much anymore, because he likes to stay at home, which is fair enough. But, Brian, Roger, and myself, we still love the road, so we’re still here in this city, putting the show together.


What does Freddie’s family think about the show?

The show, it’s for everybody. It’s a universal show. Queen’s music, as far as I’m concerned, belongs to you, as much as it belongs to Brian, and Roger, and Freddie, and John.

But they’re all still closely involved, even Freddie’s family. Freddie’s family was at that first night in Dominion. And we have the most wonderful letter from Freddie’s mom, who wrote to us after the opening night. She said Freddie would love this show, because it’s set in the future, and he always looked to the future. And it’s a comedy, and he always loved to laugh. And she ended by paraphrasing Shakespeare. She said “if music be the food of love, rock on!”


You refer to the show as a rock theatrical, not a rock musical.

Yeah. That was Brian’s idea. He said we can’t really call this a musical. It is a musical, but that doesn’t let people know there’s a sort of stadium concert side of it. It’s about the lights, and the smoke, and the video. There’s an element of seeing a rock gig. It’s not a polite performance, if you get what I’m saying. That doesn’t mean it’s rude – kids are welcome, it’s a family-friendly show, but it’s got guts.


Is this truly the first time that Bohemian Rhapsody has been played live from start to finish? Because I don’t think Queen did it in their concerts.

Unquestionably. Bohemian Rhapsody is performed live, fully live, chorally live for the first time ever, because clearly, the choral voices of Bohemian Rhapsody, which were multi tracked by Brian, Roger and Freddie originally, couldn’t be done by the band on stage, so they used to play it on tape. But we have a fabulous company of incredibly talented young rock artists who can do it live, so you will hear 20 voices joined in fabulous harmony, giving us the choral operatic section of Bohemian Rhapsody. And yes, the full five and a half-minute anthem is performed in its entirety, which it was never done by the band. Even Freddie couldn’t pull that one off.

Photo credit: Paul Kolnik


WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less