A crowning spectacle “Queen: It’s Kinda Magical” is a fairly multinational company.
On tour, a group of South African musicians play Queen’s British rock as part of a stage production by an Australian company that now tours the western provinces of Canada, stopping at Surrey Arts Center on Thursday June 16.
Originally slated for 2020, the Canadian tour has been postponed by COVID a few times ahead of the run of 36 movie dates this spring and summer.
“It’s been amazing so far and I love Canada, my first time here,” Dominic Warren, who sings the parts for Freddie Mercury, said in a phone call in late May from Thunder Bay, Ont.
“Every audience was full of energy and really enjoyed the show, and it really makes a difference to us on stage when the audience engages with us. Really enjoying the energy of the crowds so far.
The Showtime Australia musical aims to recreate the look and feel of Queen’s historic 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium, but not with the exact set of songs.
“We’ve got all the fancy costumes and the big light fixtures and an LED wall and stuff,” Warren boasted. “It’s a whole show in concert form, so there’s no narrative storytelling. We go out there and play the songs with the same energy that Queen would have.
Featuring ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Fat-Bottomed Girls’ and other hits from the 70s and 80s.
Warren rocks the songs with drummer Michael Dickens (as Roger Taylor), bassist Andre Van Der Merwe (John Deacon), and guitarist Rusty Red (Brian May). The singer was the first to join the group before the pandemic, before the tour was suspended.
“This show has been in Canada before, but not with this cast,” Warren clarified. “I signed in 2018 or 2019, I can’t remember. Michael and I went to boarding school and played together in our first band. So as soon as I got the job, I contacted him, because we get along so well musically.
Through musical connections in Cape Town, the drummer knew bassist Van Der Merwe, while guitarist Red knew Warren and Dickens from their school days.
“It turns out we like playing together,” Warren said. “It makes a difference when you’re friends playing music. It can be pretty awful when you’re not.
The band plays the songs in their original keys, which is no easy task for singer Warren. But it seems he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Funny enough, that’s what makes the show satisfying and interesting for me,” he claimed, “because there’s a lot of (tribute) shows out there that do Queen songs and they drop the keys a minor third or whatever, and I feel like that takes the punch out of the music. Freddie was struggling to sing his own songs, and that’s where the energy comes from, you know – work really hard to get to those grades.
Born a year after Mercury’s death in 1991, Warren says he’s a lifelong Queen fan who once studied baroque music. He had hoped to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, but a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes blocked that pursuit. Instead, he focused more on rock music and later signed on for the lead role in “Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic.”
Today, Warren isn’t letting her diabetes get in the way of a good performance.
“It just makes me more aware of what I’m doing, and I definitely need to be more aware of my scripts before I go on stage, because you can’t have a sugar accident there,” Warren explained.
“It’s mostly about staying in shape and managing food intake, especially on tour. I run a lot and on rest days I try to do five or 10k (kilometres) just to maintain my cardio. A fun fact is that in the first half of this show alone, I burn about 500 or 600 calories – that’s how much energy we burn on stage.