Friday, 24 July 2009

Queen: It’s A Kinda Magic, July 24, 2009 ***

Queen It’s A Kinda Magic
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 24 to 26 July, 2009 only
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 24, 2009
Published in Herald Sun, Melbourne

IF YOU FALL OVER YOURSELF when you hear Freddie Mercury singing Bohemian Rhapsody or you bellow along with We Are The Champions at sporting events, then this tribute show is for you. Queen It’s A Kinda Magic is a big, loud rock concert with stacks of speakers, rock event lighting and screaming fans.

This is not a theatre production about Mercury and Queen. There is no narrative thread or details about Mercury’s journey from son of an English diplomat through art school to 70s rock phenomenon. Who knows why they staged it in one of Melbourne’s fine, old theatres. It is better suited to an arena concert. Freddie was, after all, one of the first stadium rock stars.

Craig Pesco plays Freddie and he captures Mercury’s peacock strutting, pacing like a caged animal across the stage, wiping sweat from his head and bare chest. He grins and gapes open-mouthed, peels off layers of clothing, thrusts his pelvis, and uses his microphone like a phallic symbol just like Freddie did.

Pesco is decked out in all the costume finery of the very camp Mercury. He wears his signature clingy white pants, the glittering, red and white stripe jacket, black vinyl outfit and the red vinyl pants with Union Jack. Freddie belonged in the Village People.

But it is the music of Queen that the crowd comes to hear. Pesco’s vocal quality cannot compete with Freddie’s soaring upper register and fruity tones, but volume covers many vocal flaws. There is plenty of spectacular guitar work by Travis Hair playing Queen’s guitarist, Brian May, with a replica of May’s hand-made Red Special guitar. Matt Newton is bass player, John Deacon, and Brett Millican plays big, bold drummer, Roger Taylor.

The show saves the biggest hits till the second half so the first half is a little disappointing. However, the crowd leaps to its feet for Freddie, in drag, singing I Want To Break Free and for Killer Queen, We Are The Champions, Under Pressure and the rousing We Will Rock You. But it is the finale of Bohemian Rhapsody that they are awaiting. In 1977 it was voted Best British Single of the previous 25 years and it is still an extraordinary song. Queen will rock you.

By Kate Herbert

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