Queen and De Niro Hope Britain Goes Ga-Ga for Musical

By | May 13, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Hollywood legend Robert de Niro and British rock giants Queen have promised “We Will Rock You” when their futuristic new musical packed with the band’s greatest hits opens in London this week.

De Niro teamed up with Queen’s surviving band members and British comedian Ben Elton to produce the $10.7 million show named after one of the supergroup’s best known anthems and set in a futuristic world where musical instruments are banned.

“I think it is going to be terrific,” De Niro told reporters in the run-up to Tuesday’s premiere in London’s West End.

The star, best known for his tough guy Hollywood roles, said the idea for the musical was born after he met Queen band members Brian May and Roger Taylor at a party six years ago.

Some have expressed surprise that the musical does not follow the story of Queen, or its flamboyant singer, Freddie Mercury, whose rags-to-riches tale of excess and tragedy seems a ready-made cocktail for a stage show. Mercury died of AIDS in 1991.

“We decided we couldn’t bear the idea,” Taylor told London’s Evening Standard. “It would be too painful, too close, and a bit grand. It would be for somebody else to do. You can’t supervise your own history.”

“We Will Rock You” is set on futuristic Planet Mall, a world where globalization rules and musical instruments are banned.

The show weaves in lyrics and characters from some of the band’s best-known hits – “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Radio Ga-Ga” and “I Want To Break Free.”

“It’s a safe, happy Ga Ga world. It is an age of boy bands and girl bands, or boy and girl bands. Of girl bands with a couple of boys in them that look like girls anyway,” says the description on Queen’s web site (www.queenonline.com).

Ben Elton, who created the musical’s concept and wrote the script, said Queen’s music was uniquely theatrical and would lend itself well to the stage.

Last week the band’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was voted Britain’s best single of all time in a poll of music fans. The pop epic, which lasts almost six minutes, beat John Lennon’s “Imagine” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” in the poll by the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles.

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