The Show Must Go On and Under Pressure, they still are the champions.
Rami Malek captured Freddie Mercury so perfectly in Bohemian Rhapsody last year that everyone else has to find a piece of Freddie to make their own. In Queen Forever, Gareth Hill owns the moves, the stance, the arm pumps.
Hill is a fan (remember fan is short for fanatic) of Queen and Freddie and has been since he first played a Queen record at age 11. After working in musical theatre – Pippin, Guys and Dolls as well as Oliver, to name just a few, Hill retired from entertainment to take up a regular job. It didn’t work out for him, and after seeing a Queen tribute band he knew what he wanted to do. He knew he could do better than the bands lead singer, which he told the guitarist and the guitarist took him up on that and offered him a job.
Cue 11 years ahead and he’s playing at Sydney’s State Theatre – a dream come true. Managed by the brains behind Bjorn Again! which now boasts three franchises operating simultaneously in Australia, the UK and Canada, John Tyrrell and his wife Lisa have taken on Queen Forever! It’s somewhat camper than the real thing and much more light-hearted.
Initially, the band was playing small gigs with only a few hundred people in attendance, but following the movie and with the help of Tyrrell, the band played to 2,400 people at Crown Theatre, Perth in February 2019. The State Theatre was filled to capacity and the audience all sang along, performed the actions and even got into the spirit of dancing on stage when asked.
Tyrrell brings a tightness to the production and is constantly working on the act to bring them to the top of their game – he foresees big things for the band. In April of this year, Queen Forever performed at the Rugby Sevens in Hong Kong and beyond that, who knows what the future holds for this eclectic band.
Scott Bastian is Brian May and is an excellent guitarist. It’s likely that once Tyrrell gives the band more of the Bjorn Again makeover, he will become more of a parody of one of rock’s greatest guitarists. The program refers to Scott as “Scotty Hotpants” as the inimitable Brian May who replicates the licks of Brian with such accuracy that even die-hard fans are left amazed. When he camps up to his “hot pants” description, the act will be complete.
The band is clearly close and work well together. The injection of publicity flowing from last year’s movie has given them not only their old fans who have returned to the fold but also a new generation of followers who have succeeded in bringing a new tolerance to Freddie and the band, who have not always enjoyed the popularity they do today.
Avid followers with notice that there are different versions of the performance. Previously at the State Theatre, Freddie was on G-rated behaviour and when he pulls audience members onto the stage he makes them comfortable and resists any humour at their expense. Playing at other venues, Freddie becomes more like the real thing – swearing and cussing (in the nicest possible way!) to the audience’s pleasure.
Freddie struts the stage, planting his feet as widely apart as Freddie did and bounds with energy. After the show, he had time (and energy) to connect with fans waiting outside. It’s a great fitness regime and the body looks great in the Freddie style outfits. Tight white pants, the military jackets and 80s tank tops – all perfect recreations.
The rest of the band take their roles equally seriously – as John Deacon, Darryn McLaughlin puts on a wig and the sensible 80s shirts and pants to bring him to life, staid as it always looked for Deacon himself. Brad Hodge dons the blond hair and sunnies and really has little else to do to become Roger Taylor (apart from play muscular drums).
The show uses old video footage to give greater context to some of the songs – such as I Want to Break Free, Bohemian Rhapsody and I’m In Love With My Car. The set carefully blends both early and later Queen, highlighting many slower and more upbeat anthemic numbers, from You’re My Best Friend, These are the Days of Our Lives, and Fat Bottomed Girls to Seven Seas of Rhye, A Kind of Magic and I Want it All.
The cast of Queen Forever is talented and don’t take themselves too seriously. The film Bohemian Rhapsody has shown that, to honour a band you don’t have to be a diehard fan, you don’t have to hit every note and you don’t have to be perfect replicas to give people their money’s worth for a show that makes them feel good allowing the audience to leave and feel that we, indeed are the champions.
Bjorn Again has been on the circuit since 1988. Queen Forever should be able to survive at least that long.
For more information visit Queen Forever.