To be sure, British royalty is having a moment this summer, and Long Islanders now have plenty of reason to don that favorite old black T-shirt with the iconic band logo resembling a coat of arms.
The Long Island premiere of “We Will Rock You,” the jukebox musical written by British playwright and sitcom creator Ben Elton as a framework for covers of Queen’s greatest hits, opens at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts this weekend. The show, which debuted in 2002 and became the longest-running production at the Dominion Theatre on London’s West End, is a fitting prelude to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the eight-years-in-the-making Queen biopic set for release this fall.
But don’t expect any little-known revelations about lead singer Freddie Mercury and the rest of the band. “It is not a musical about Queen,” explains director Ken Washington, who first saw the show in Las Vegas and noticed its appeal to audiences beyond those of the standard musical fare. “It’s a futuristic tale about a post-apocalyptic world where there is no live music and the two revolutionaries who set out to free that world of the restriction. It’s also a love story.”
All of the band’s signature rock classics — including "Another One Bites the Dust," "We Are the Champions" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" — are here, along with their signature elaborate arrangements, layered instrumentals and vocal acrobatics.
So, too, is Queen’s legendary high-energy, theatrical staging. “It definitely has the rock environment,” says Washington of the production, noting how LED walls, fog and haze transform “the little theater into a concert hall.”
Yet for all its bravura and visual extravagance, the show still seeks to be inclusive of its audience, as did Queen when performing for packed arenas around the globe. “He [Mercury] could make the last person at the back of the furthest stand in a stadium feel that he was connected,” said lead guitarist Brian May.
The song "We Will Rock You" was "a response to a particular phase in Queen’s career, when the audience was becoming a bigger part of the show than we were,” May explained to Guitar World in 2002. “They would sing all the songs. And in a place like ... [Bingley Hall], they’d be so vociferous that we’d have to stop the show and let them sing to us.”
Spoiler alert. “Don’t leave early,” says Washington, suggesting it may be time to brush up on those octave-jumping “Mamma Mias” and “Galileos."
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 19, Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St.
INFO $25-$38; 631-724-3700, smithtownpac.org