WE WILL ROCK YOU written and directed by Ben Elton, with Yvan Pedneault, Erica Peck, Alana Bridgewater and Evan Buliung. Presented by Mirvish Productions in association with Queen, Phil McIntyre Entertainment and Tribeca Theatrical Productions, at the Canon Theatre (244 Victoria). In previews, opens Tuesday (April 10), for a limited run Tue-Sat 8 pm, mat Sat-Sun 2 pm. $20-$94. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNNNN
Erica Peck doesn't have to remove her nose rings - all three of them - for her role in We Will Rock You, the musical inspired by Queen songs.
"I'm wearing them with pride," she laughs. "I haven't had to alter my appearance much," she says, touching her spiked hair. "Actually, since we started the show, all the chorus members have got facial piercings, and people can show their tattoos onstage for the first time."
No, WWRY's definitely not your grandparents' Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Original Queen member Roger Taylor is even on record saying he detests the genre.
"It's really difficult for young people to see theatre," confesses Peck, who plays the show's scrappy heroine, Scaramouche.
She was a year and a half into Sheridan College's musical theatre program when she attended the open call for WWRY.
"Something like this beats a movie any day. It's a great segue for people who don't go to much theatre. There's a plot line, but it's enjoyable, light. And there's a very legitimate musical backbone."
Evan Buliung, who plays the show's corporate drone of a villain, Khashoggi, didn't want to sign on for another musical. After all, he had just put down his helmet and sword from the somewhat ill-fated Lord Of The Rings production, where he played Aragorn.
"I turned down the audition," says the Stratford and Shaw festival veteran. "And then I ran into the casting director, who showed me the script. I thought it was funny. Sometimes a show doesn't have to be about pressing issues or psychological debates about the human race. You just go out there and give the people what they want."
Buliung claims audiences are loving the show. Makes sense, since old or young, hard rock or singer/songwriter - everyone knows their Queen.
"Toronto listens to We Will Rock You at every hockey game," points out Buliung. "I've always liked 70s hard rock, but Queen's music has an epic quality that I liked, too, which has carried on to the bands I listen to a lot now, like Radiohead and Muse."
A generation younger, Peck admits she first heard Bohemian Rhapsody when she watched the movie Wayne's World.
"I knew a lot of their songs but I didn't know they were all by Queen," she says. "Only in my teens did I put together that four people wrote all this incredible music."
Incredible, and at times difficult to sing.
"There's this big note, the money note, in Somebody To Love," says Peck. "And if you couldn't belt that note, you couldn't be cast in this role. I had to learn how to belt it."
When Buliung performed the insanely difficult The Seven Seas Of Rye at his final callback for Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May, May gave him the rock-on sign.
Now, that's affirmation.
Both performers admit that WWRY is part of the juke box musicals trend.
"The show is incredibly funny in a campy way," says Peck. "I think it suits the style of the music. And the plot weaves the songs together in a fun way."
"And remember," adds Buliung, "that musical theatre started out that way. Songs of the times were set to loose scripts, and audiences loved it. It wasn't until Rodgers and Hammerstein that they started to create original musicals with books."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Peck on her classical training, her purple hair phase and her love of theatre:
Peck on meeting the members of Queen:
Peck's favourite Queen lyric:
Peck on how to survive 7-performance weeks