A show crowned “Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic” is quite a multinational venture.
On tour, a band of South African musicians plays Queen’s British rock in an Australian company’s stage production now travelling Canada’s western provinces, with a stop at Surrey Arts Centre on Thursday, June 16.
Originally scheduled for 2020, the Canadian tour was postponed by COVID a couple times before the 36-date run of theatres this spring and summer.
“It’s been amazing so far and I’m loving Canada, my first time here,” Dominic Warren, who sings Freddie Mercury’s parts, reported in a late-May phone call from Thunder Bay, Ont.
“Every single audience has been full of energy and really appreciative of the show, and it really makes a difference for us on stage when audiences are engaging with us. I’m really enjoying the energy from crowds so far.”
Showtime Australia’s musical aims to recreate the look and feel of Queen’s landmark 1986 Wembley Stadium concert, but not with the exact set of songs.
“We have all of the outlandish costumes and big light rigs, an LED wall and other things,” Warren boasted. “It’s quite a spectacle in concert form, so there’s no narrative storytelling. We go out there and play the songs with the same amount of energy that Queen would have done.”
Featured are “We Will Rock You,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Under Pressure,” “Fat-Bottomed Girls” and other ’70s and ’80s hits.
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 first to join the band pre-pandemic, before touring was put on hold.
“This show has been to Canada before, but not with this cast,” Warren clarified. “I signed on in 2018 or 2019, I can’t recall. Michael and I went to boarding school and played in our first band together. So the moment I got the job I reached out to him, because we get along so well musically.”
Through Cape Town music connections the drummer knew bassist Van Der Merwe, while guitarist Red knew Warren and Dickens from their school days.
“It just worked out that we enjoy playing together,” Warren said. “It makes a difference when you’re friends playing the music. It can be quite horrible when you’re not.”
The band plays the songs in their original keys – no easy task for singer Warren. But it sounds like he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Funny enough, it’s what makes the show satisfying and worthwhile for me,” he claimed, “because there are a lot of (tribute) shows out there doing Queen songs and they’re dropping the keys by a minor-third or whatever, and I feel that takes the punch away from the music. Freddie used to struggle singing his own songs, and that’s where the energy comes from, you know – working extra hard to get to those notes.”
Born a year after Mercury died in 1991, Warren says he’s a longtime Queen fan who once studied baroque music. He’d hoped to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, but a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes stalled that pursuit. Instead, he focused more on rock music and later signed on for the starring role in “Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic.”
Today, Warren doesn’t let his diabetes get in the way of a good performance.
“It just makes me more conscious of what I’m doing, and I definitely have to be more aware of my scenarios before I walk on stage, because you can’t have a sugar crash out there,” Warren explained.
“It’s mainly about remaining fit and managing food intake, especially on tour. I run quite a lot and on off days I try to do five or 10K (kilometres), just to keep up my cardio. A fun fact is that just in the first half of this show, I burn about 500 or 600 calories – that’s how much energy we burn on stage.”