We Will Rock You, a musical built around the music of classic rock group Queen and developed by members of the band along with Ben Elton, is on tour and headed to Columbus for eight shows at the Palace Theatre starting Jan. 7.
Cast member P.J. Griffith, who plays Khashoggi, one of the antagonists, was kind enough to answer some questions about the show for The Beat.
The Beat: Before we get into the music or your character – this show just looks like fun.
P.J. Griffith: It’s a good time. Non-stop party, rockin’ two and a half hours straight.
TB: How long have you been with the tour?
PJG: We all opened together in Baltimore in October, so about three months.
TB: Describe your character.
PJG: I play Khashoggi, the maniacal head of the secret police who crushes any attempts at individual thought on the otherwise perfect iPlanet. But beneath it all he is secretly obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll.
TB: Is there a challenge to presenting these songs in character? Queen’s songs are theatrical, but you’re providing context that the original songs didn’t have.
PJG: There is. Freddy (Mercury)’s lyrics can be very specific. It can become a full-on Shakespearean exercise justifying some of the metaphors in the context of a comedy set in the distant future. In one song, while torturing the rebel Bohemians, I sing “Storm the master marathon, I’ll fly through/ By flash and thunderfire I’ll survive/ And I’ll defy the laws of nature and come out alive!” Thunderfire? That’s pretty metal.
TB: You’re featured on a couple of great songs, but maybe ones that are better-known among hard-core Queen fans than the typical audience member. Talk about the songs you get to sing.
PJG: I get two gems – the bombastic 1974 prog rock anthem Seven Seas of Rye as a sadistic sci-fi-vaudeville-song-and-dance number and a re-orchestrated version of A Kind Of Magic (from the Highlander soundtrack) which is a duet with The Killer Queen of the iPlanet (Broadway’s Jackie Arnold) celebrating our plans to reduce the entire population to uncritical consumers. So yeah, most of my high-fives come from the hard-core fans and the Comic-Con geeks (both of whom I identify with).
TB: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
PJG: At the end of Act 1, I put the Bohemian rebels in an enormous laser cage then quote Britney Spears to order the immediate execution of the rebel leader in front of his minions. Possibly the most insane End-of-Act 1 in the entire history of musical theater. Also, pretty metal.