I think it’s a common thing when you’re a theatre fan to have that one show, or perhaps shows, that lit the spark that ignited your passion for the theatre. The show that led you to where you are, whether working in the theatre or just a straight up fan (like me). For me that show was the Mirvish production of We Will Rock You in Toronto.
For those of you who don’t know We Will Rock You is a musical that originated in London that uses the music of Queen, with a book written by Ben Elton. It is set in a future where rock music has been eliminated and creativity and individuality are outlawed. A group of rebels (the Bohemians) are searching for the lost rock with the help of Galileo (“The Dreamer”) and Scaramouche. (It’s really not as ridiculous as it sounds!!) It’s a show full of references, both pop culture and classic rock. The promotional video for the Toronto production can still be found on YouTube (I watched it earlier today!). I can’t tell you how many times I watched that video and I can still quote it along with the clips!
As I mentioned in my “Theatre Facts About Me” post earlier this week, I have seen We Will Rock You six times. I saw the show for the first time in 2007 on a trip to Toronto with my parents. We were already planning a trip that included going to see the Titanic exhibit that was at the Science Centre then one night before the trip we were watching Canadian Idol- yes, we were a household that watched Canadian Idol- and there was a performance by Yvan Pedneault, who played Galileo in We Will Rock You. My parents had already seen and liked the show and after watching that episode of Canadian Idol we decided to add the show to our trip!
We Will Rock You was playing at the Canon Theatre, which is now the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and I had never seen anything like it before in my life! I left the theatre feeling so happy and excited! It was exhilarating! As soon as I left the theatre I wanted to see it again and I’m pretty sure I listened to the London cast recording on my discman when we got back to the hotel after the show. (Canadian Idol and a discman, things have really changed in 9 years!) Luckily I have an aunt and uncle who were also fans of the show and I got to see it a second time that same summer with them! As you can see I didn’t waste any time in developing my obsession with this show (and theatre in general)! We Will Rock You kept getting extended at the Canon Theatre and then ended up moving to the Panasonic Theatre, where I saw it another two times!
I went to school in England for my first year of university and after first semester exams and before flying home for Christmas I decided to take a solo day trip to London to see a couple of West End shows. At the top of my list? We Will Rock You of course! The show originated in London, so of course I had to see there when I had the chance! Again I loved it, though I think I preferred the Toronto version, but that could also be because I was so used to the Toronto production and it meant so much to me.
The last time I saw the show was in 2014 when the North American tour had a stop in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. Again, of course I had to see it! It was also cool because Erica Peck, who had been Scaramouche in the Toronto production played Oz in the tour. It was sort of a full circle moment because 7 years later I got to see the show at the same theatre at which I saw it for the first time and this was also the year I graduated from university as a Drama major.
Having seen it so many times it was fun to see how the references in the show changed over time and to see the differences between the Toronto and London productions. I am still kind of surprised that the show never made the transition to Broadway.
It’s really because of We Will Rock You that I became interested in the musical theatre/Broadway world. Seeing the show opened up this whole new, wonderful world for me and I’ve never looked back. I saw other shows because cast members from We Will Rock You were in them (The Boys in the Photograph, for example) and I became more aware of the theatre scene in Toronto and New York. Not only did my interest in seeing theatre grow from my We Will Rock You experience, my interest in learning about and eventually creating theatre grew from it too. In high school I had not been interested in taking Drama; I took it in grade 9 Drama because I had to as it was combined with visual art, which I did want to take. But then We Will Rock You happened and my interest piqued. My high school didn’t have a lot of options by way of theatrical productions but every other year it offered a music theatre class in which the class writes and performs a jukebox musical, a class which I took in grade 12. I then went on to study Drama at university where I got to fall even more in love with the theatre, this time with a focus on the production side of things!
I do wish I had known at the time about the phenomenon that is stagedoor-ing. I would see pictures online of fans with the cast but I didn’t know how they did it! After one performance my aunt did get to meet Yvan Pedneault (who played Galileo) as she was waiting for her ride. My parents and I had seen the show with her that night but we had already gone back to our hotel. She had tried to call my dad’s cell to get us to come back, but it was still off from seeing the show! I was so close! But she did get his autograph for me, which I still have in a frame! Actually, if I ever get the chance, I would still love to meet anyone from that cast!
Even if I never do meet them and even if they never see this I do want to thank Mirvish and the Toronto company of We Will Rock You for the world they introduced to me! To Yvan Pedneault, Erica Peck, Valerie Stanois, Sterling Jarvis, Alana Bridgewater, Evan Buliung, and the rest of the cast and crew, THANK YOU!
I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without them and this show!
(Also thank you to my parents and aunt and uncle for supporting/enabling my fanatacism, I am forever grateful!)
We Will Rock You introduced me to what the theatre can do and what it can be. It also proves that the theatre really can change lives! Seeing this show remains to this day one of my all time favourite theatrical memories and it will always hold a special place in my theatre-filled heart!