Interview with Ben Elton from We Will Rock You

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Here is part three – aka the last part  – from the group interviews at the WWRY media call.

For more information and tickets, go to: wewillrockyou.com.au

Please note: Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, members of Queen, are referenced constantly in this interview. To save room, I left full names and descriptions out.

BEN Elton – writer/director

Benon the show
“What a wonderful place, and very special for me, because [the Regent] theatre was really where WWRY was born in a way. I joined as Director quite late, so it was a process of learning, discovering the true WWRY – it was only when we came here to Australia, and Brian, Roger and myself spent a month in this theatre in the dark in lengthy tech and rehearsals that we really formulated the running order, the songs, the design concept etc that became WWRY worldwide.

Much of what we discovered here in Melbourne, we took back to the Dominion [Theatre in London] bit by bit as we went along – so very much, London and Melbourne joined hands and created WWRY. In this very theatre, I spent some very long, hard, but incredibly exhilarating hours with a wonderful musical theatre community of Australia here all those years ago in 2003.

Now we’re back with a new production with a new production company [and] a couple of new songs in the show. [WWRY is] always growing, always changing, but always, at heart, the WWRY that has delighted so many people worldwide with its incredible music. I’m really proud and very touched to be here.”

Benon the show being live
WWRY will be live – because that’s what we offer – the live rock n roll experience. We have an incredible 8 piece band, and a wonderful all -Australian company who perform and sing this great music live. In this world where increasingly, people consume their music either via a little letterbox or an iPhone or else in a massive stadium watching some dot on the landscape or watching their screens or through their iPhone; technology seems to be divorcing us from the live experience – well we’re here to bring it back.”

Benon the song, Bohemian Rhapsody
“The whole company sing Bohemian Rhapsody – and that’s a historic thing, because it’s the one song that we do which Queen never played live themselves. They used to do bits and pieces of it, but obviously, it’s got this massive coral part which was massive amounts of over-dubbing from Brian, Roger and Freddie (John not so much, the singing on that). We do it fully live with our wonderful company.” 

Benon the song, Somebody to Love
“Freddie wrote that song. Some people think he was looking for somebody to love but talking to Brian and Roger, I think he was talking about trying to learn to love himself. Think of those lyrics – what self-revelationary, the great genius Freddie Mercury letting us look into his private fears and his private anxieties.

It’s funny, perhaps it’s no secret, [that] when we opened, there were some critics that didn’t like it. A number of them said, ‘oh, what would Freddie made of this?’ ‘Freddie would have hated it’. How extraordinary that they had the pomposity to suggest that they knew better than what Brian, Roger and Freddie’s family would sanction. Obviously, neither Brian, Roger nor John would do anything that Freddie wouldn’t have wanted.

After the opening night, Freddie’s Mum wrote a letter to the company, [saying] that ‘Freddie would have loved this show.’ She said, ‘it’s set in the future, which was always where Freddie was looking to, and it’s a comedy, and Freddie never took himself too seriously.’ And she ended with, ‘if music is the food of love then rock on.’

I thought you’d like to hear that when you’re listening to that amazing confessional song [Somebody to Love] that Freddie wrote and we perform so often, that he’ll never hear in that particular way that we do it, sung by a teenage girl trying to discover herself.”

Benon why Australian audiences enjoy the show so much
“Australia is a big musical theatre country – it punches above its weight in terms of the artists working in it – from the geniuses of Baz Luhrmann, right down to every member of every chorus. We have an incredibly high standard here. #1 the talent base is extraordinary, but also the audience is. The audience, they’re got rock in their bones. They’re not easy to please – but if they love it, they cheer the loudest.”

Ben – on switching Play The Game for Now I’m Here
Now I’m Here is a Brian May song – he wrote it on [Queen‘s] first American tour. A thin moon me in a smoke screen sky – he’s talking about himself standing in a spotlight. I was just talking to Brian about the song and I just suddenly thought it would be a lovely way for the Killer Queen to really rock out! That’s the great fun of working with the band and being a writer – you can have fun like that.”

Benon the story of WWRY
WWRY is what they call a dystopian vision – they’re written in the future but they’re about the present. George Orwell perhaps wrote the greatest of all with 1984, then Aldous Huxley with Brave New World – I wouldn’t compare the book of WWRY to either, but nevertheless, like The Matrix. like anything – it’s a vision of the present, slightly exaggerated.

And the point, of course, is that my exaggerated vision actually came true – very, very quickly. The idea that rock and pop will be downloaded directly to the consumer – you just get the latest hits beamed virtually  into your head – that was my vision in 2002. A couple of years later the iPod came out, then the iPhone – and oh my goodness, it literally happened that quick!

I think the show is more relevant than it ever was, even though the dystopian vision has got closer to the present, it is something that we can still change. This show appeals to the ideal of community, the idea of [going] out and having an actually real life, human experience – in this case, enjoying rock n roll [as] part of a crowd. That is something that we must never ever lose.”

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