It's really thanks to a man we can claim as one of our own that Sudburians are being treated to a touring show of “We Will Rock You” featuring the music of rock music icons Queen at the Sudbury Arena on Thursday evening.
JP Thibodeau, the production's director, was born in Sudbury, and spent most of his younger years in the Northern Ontario communities of Elliot Lake and Timmins.
Although he lives in Calgary now, where he's the artistic director with StoryBook Theatre, Thibodeau said his parents live in Azilda and most of the rest of his family lives in the Greater Sudbury area too.
Some family members saw “We Will Rock You” at Madison Square Garden in New York City last year, but Thibodeau said he's excited for the rest of his family to see it too.
“There's something different about it actually being in your own backyard,” Thibodeau said.
“The rest of the family gets to go see it and enjoy and kind of experience what you've been doing your whole life.
“A lot of my family are miners — they worked for Falconbridge and Inco. That was what you did when you grew up in Northern Ontario. Me taking a path in theatre, some of them probably shook their heads going you know 'He's never going to have a career. What kind of career is that?'”
The North American tour of “We Will Rock You” is produced by Annerin Theatricals out of Calgary. Here in Canada, it features an all-Canadian cast.
Thibodeau said he had a previous relationship with Annerin as a consultant, and was stoked to be chosen as the tour's director.
He said he spent the first half of 2019 focused on the show, but once it got on the road in September, he's been flying in periodically to ensure things are going well.
“We Will Rock You” is a jukebox musical based on the songs of British rock band Queen.
Written by Ben Elton, it tells the story of a group of Bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same. Musical instruments and composers are forbidden, and rock music is all but unknown.
“The night is about coming out and just having a good time at a rock and roll show,” Thibodeau said.
“Yeah it's theatre, but it's really about (Queen's) music. You can sing along and dance along, and just listen to a quirky, silly story that just uses all the music of Queen and puts it together in a fun way.
“What you can expect is just fun night out.”
The original production of “We Will Rock You” opened in the West End of London, England, in 2002, and the show has since played around the world.
You may have caught the production that ran in Toronto from 2007 to 2009.
Among those who saw that early 21st century Toronto production of “We Will Rock You” was Trevor Coll, who plays Galileo in the version of the show currently touring North America.
“I actually saw that show when I was in high school,” said Coll, a Toronto native. “It was phenomenal. It totally changed my trajectory. It's one of those things that you feel like you're living a dream when you see something.
“I bought the soundtrack and learned from it. To be in the show now, it kind of feels full circle.”
Audiences of all ages love the show, he said, including fans of Queen from its heyday in the 1970s as well as more recent fans.
The 2018 film “Bohemian Rhapsody” — a biopic of the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury — has drawn attention to the band.
“The last 10 minutes of the show really do feel like a concert,” Coll said. “We have yet to not have an audience stand up and wave their arms along with us while we sing the epic song 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'”
The show runs at the Sudbury Arena at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30.
Tickets start at $78.50 and are available online at greatersudbury.ca/tickets, by phone at 705 671-3000 or in person at the Sudbury Community Arena Box Office (240 Elgin Street).