The rumours are true. We Will Rock You, the hit musical set in a dystopian future and supercharged by the music of Queen, is coming to South Africa.
This new iteration of the internationally renowned musical is choreographed and directed by award-winning British director, Nick Winston, performed by an all-South African cast, and brought to Johannesburg’s Montecasino’s Teatro (10 March – 16 April 2023) and Cape Town’s Artscape Theatre (5 May – 4 June 2023) by Showtime, before touring abroad.
Ahead of the show’s Johannesburg run, we reached out to Showtime’s Hazel Feldman to find out more about the story behind the musical, the shifting live entertainment landscape in South Africa, and which of Queen’s hits we can expect to hear in We Will Rock You.
Hi Hazel, thanks for speaking with us. So, We Will Rock You (WWRY) is back! Can you tell us a bit about the journey that’s lead to the return of the musical in SA?
The music of Queen and the production WWRY have a timeless quality, and it’s always been a favourite production of mine. When I was approached by a London company to get involved with a ‘re-imagined’ production, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. This was 2018, pre-COVID, so our plans and planning have now spanned an interminable five years. It has been a challenge to keep it together, but here we are!
We Will Rock You was last staged in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in 2005 and 2006. How has the musical changed since then?
This production is very different from the original. Director/Choreographer Nick Winston has created a totally different look and feel, as well as emphasis, but the basic story-line remains the same. And, of course, the music will always be the same.
Similarly, We Will Rock You marks Showtime’s return to the musical theatre space. How would you say the South African live performance and events industry has changed over the years?
We are so excited to be back in full production. It’s been a very difficult few years – coming from a total high of 2019 into the dark years of COVID. The landscape of the industry has changed. The audiences have changed. They are very particular now with their choices. With The Dome closing we have lost a massive venue for Johannesburg and this has impacted our ability to present shows like Disney on Ice. It’s an absolute tragedy that a city like Johannesburg does not have a single Arena of consequence. It’s ridiculous. Meanwhile, we as Showtime are feeling our way and have had success with Gregory Porter, and with the ULTRA music festival and Monster Jam to follow shortly. And, of course, We Will Rock You which hopefully will pull people back into theatres.
Can you tell us a bit more about the narrative behind this new iteration of We Will Rock You? How much of it is inspired by Queen songs?
I think Nick Winston said it best: “The show features 24 of Queen’s hit songs including Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Killer Queen, and the worldwide favourites We are the Champions, Bohemian Rhapsody and of course, We Will Rock You. This brand new production explores this dystopian world with a new look and I’m especially excited about creating new choreography to the iconic Queen music with a dynamic powerful ensemble who compliment the rock riffs and epic vocals… For the fans of Queen, the fans of musicals and the fans of galaxies far, far away, this is for you.”
Besides enjoying all of their favourite Queen hits, what will audiences take away from the musical?
A sense of having had a great night out and a bundle of fun. And just maybe – a little to think about in this brave new world.
The musical has toured to places like New Zealand and Korea over the years. It’s clearly a production that has a universal appeal. What makes it such an enduring and engaging show?
Absolutely the enduring quality of the music of Queen – packaged into an enjoyable and entertaining evening that does not disappoint.
24 of Queen’s hit songs are featured in We Will Rock You. Any personal favourites?
A tough question – I love them all. But perhaps ‘It’s a Kind of Magic’ because that is the reality of Queen.
Lastly, our Online Editor, Angie, needs to know: Will they perform ‘I Want to Break Free’?