Arts / Freddie’s kinda magical tribute

GOLD Coast entrepreneur Johnny van Grinsven will be back in town at the end of July with a show based on the late Freddie Mercury and the band Queen’s 1986 World Tour concert.

Giles Taylor as Freddie Mercury… “By the time Giles hits the stage with make-up and costume etcetera. people soon believe they’re at a Queen concert,” says promoter Johnny van Grinsven.

When “CityNews” last talked to him just over a year ago he was about to descend on Canberra with a spectacular production based on Michael Jackson’s 1986 “HIStory” tour.

As with the Jackson show, there will be “insane lighting”, fabulous costumes and both lookalike and soundalike musicians – Australians Richie Baker as Brian May on guitar and Kyle Thompson as Roger Taylor on drums, joined by South Africa’s Steven Dennett as John Deacon on bass.

UK muso Giles Taylor plays Freddie Mercury and, in an effort to conjure up a night with Queen, even the lighting cues have been designed to replicate those seen in real Queen concerts.

We caught up with van Grinsven by phone to Cape Town, where he was touring “Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic”, and found that he was branching out from focusing solely on artists who have “passed” and that he’d just finished auditioning for a spectacular Tina Turner show, to be launched in December in South Africa.

Finding stars for tribute shows is the key. Last year van Grinsven told us that, when looking for a Whitney Houston singalike, he had auditioned thousands of female singers, but it was worth it – that show, he says, keeps growing and 2018 will see a national tour of the UK with the London Symphony Orchestra, with performances at the Royal Albert Hall.

It wasn’t nearly so hard finding Taylor, “a great Freddie impersonator”, to play the charismatic Queen lead singer.

“The challenge with this role is to find someone who can play piano as good [sic] as they can perform and sing,” he says.

“I also had great support finalising the role with Giles with the help of Peter Freestone, Freddie’s personal assistant and best friend for 12 years of his life… this was a great help to get the final, extra pieces of the puzzle.”

As for the question of impersonation, van Grinsven says that some tribute performers could be “pains in the arse because they think they’re real”, but he has no such problems with Taylor.

“By the time Giles hits the stage with make-up and costume etcetera, people soon believe they’re at a Queen concert and leave with a piece of the magic that Freddie left his audience with.”

That’s important to him, because he perceives the demographic for the Queen show to be “female, skewed 40+ and any person who loves the classic rock and glam rock era”.

The show recreates Queen’s 1986 World Tour concert and features the band’s greatest hits including “We Will Rock You”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “We Are the Champions” and “Fat-Bottomed Girls” along with a few obscure Queen tracks for die-hard fans.

Van Grinsven is expected back in Canberra again next year when the David Bowie tribute show he was planning is expected to tour Australia’s capital cities by 2018.

“Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic”, Royal Theatre, Sunday July 30. Bookings to premier.ticketek.com.au

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