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The Royal Treatment: We Will Rock You Debuts in Toronto

We Will Rock You, according to writer-director Ben Elton, isn’t so much a title as a promise. Audiences have embraced that promise: WWRY is enjoying a successful five-year run in London’s celebrated West End, and soon after it opened in 2002, the show swept the UK’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers Choice Awards, winning an award in each category it was nominated. Its worldwide appeal is evident, with productions running in Australia, Spain, Russia, South Africa, Japan, Germany and Switzerland.

Inspired by the music of stadium rock gods Queen, WWRY incorporates 32 of the band’s beloved hits, including “Radio Ga Ga,” “Somebody to Love” and “We Are the Champions.” The show’s finale is a fist-pumping rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that has been known to raise audiences from their seats.

While a stage biography of singer Freddie Mercury was initially proposed, writer Elton chose to go in an entirely different and unexpected direction. At the show’s Toronto press conference in December, he explained he wanted to create a “rock colossus to reflect the legendary status of the band.”

The result of his ambition is a dystopian vision of music culture 300 years in the future. Live music is banned and a profit-hungry corporate machine, Globalsoft Corporation, serves up synthesized pop music to a rock-starved population. The story playfully sends up heroic legend—in a nod to Arthurian lore, the show’s rock-and-roll redeemer, named Galileo, pulls a guitar from a stone.

While the story hasn’t received many kudos from critics for coherence or originality, Elton makes no apologies for its silliness, telling an interviewer, “This show does not have pretensions to be 1984. It’s not a deeply serious story, but it has a satirical edge.”

The multi-million dollar show invests heavily in visual wows. Production designers Mark Fisher and Willie Williams are no strangers to stadium rock pyrotechnics. The duo has designed sets for some of rock’s most venerated acts, including Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and U2. Williams’ lighting design involves more than $2 million worth of LED screens.

In fact, a live rock band is among the entirely Canadian cast and crew. Casting was an extensive process. More than 2,000 performers auditioned. Quebec heartthrob Yvan Pedneault landed the coveted lead of Galileo, Erica Peck, plays his love interest, Scaramouche. Peck, only 20 years old, was mid-way through her theatre studies at local Sheridan College, when she was chosen for the part. Alana Bridgewater (Little Shop of Horrors, Menopause Out Loud!) plays the villain, the cold-hearted corporate goddess Killer Queen, and Evan Buliung, most recently Aragorn in last year’s stage production of The Lord of the Rings, plays Killer Queen’s henchman Khashoggi.

We Will Rock You begins previews March 14 at the Canon Theatre. Tickets are $20 to $94. Call 416-872-1212 to order.

TIP! Hear rock legends-to-be. Canadian Music Week showcases acts from around the world March 7 to 10. Call 905-858-4747 or visit www.cmw.net for details.

Before filling up on the music of Queen, fill up your belly at these dining options in They Will Feed You, all within walking distance of Canon Theatre.

Web Exclusive! Check out 10 Top Music Venues for info on live music.—Flannery Dean

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