Before Nathan James appeared on The Voice and made the final cut in the Jesus Christ Superstar reality show I saw him at The Grove, Dunstable, in a great little rock show called Route ’66.
Swap a playlist of Stateside anthems for the back catalogue of Queen, complete with sexy dancers (dressed, it would appear, by Ann Summers), a quintet of support singers, and some seriously good musicians, and you have Bohemian Rhapsody – The Music of Queen.
The production is billed as The Spectacular Award-Winning Queen Tribute – I’m not sure what awards it is supposed to have taken but the tribute show was certainly a hit with the first night audience I joined on Tuesday.
Of course, they were partisan. They were Queen fans one and all and, let’s be honest, you’re not going to go to something like this unless you are.
They started clapping with the opener One Vision and by the end of the two-hour show, and 26 tunes later, their sweaty palms were raw. Arm waving, dancing and singing along to The Greatest Hits is, by the way, obligatory.
It’s a very sexy show. The costumes, what there are of them, are pure fantasy rock, the girls look like they’ve walked off a glamour shoot, the dancers work their suspenders off, and guitarist Connor Williamson, standing in for Brian May, tosses his long locks in true retro rocker style. It’s high energy through one hit after another.
But let’s hope they do something about the sound, which was atrocious, and the guys spend a few hours rehearsing those top notes – the long-haired bearded blond lead singer included. They can never hope to emulate Freddie Mercury and his incredible range but they need to work on the arrangements if they’re not entirely confident with what they’re aiming for.
It was impossible to make out a lot of the lyrics to the rock numbers, with the band frequently drowning out the singers, but the ballads, and a classy rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, made up for it. Oh, and a rather witty Bicycle Race that was nicely choreographed by Emma Rogers.
The show’s flamboyant star also needs to have a decent script written for him. There’s only so many times that you can shout out “are you having a good time?” There’s virtually no interaction with the audience. Instead we have one song straight after another. As a jukebox musical it did what it said on the programme but I’d like to have heard a bit of banter.
Amy Diamond looks like a Barbie Doll but has hidden depths beneath the Page Three bodywork. She sang emotional versions of Who Wants To Live Forever and Love of My Life (beautifully accompanied on guitar by Drew Love) as well as hitting the high notes with the powerfully voiced knockout, Kelly Ann Gower, and NJ, for the superb Act One finale, Barcelona.
Giovanni Spano, who has also toured with Superstar, stripped down for a bit of fun with I Want To Break Free and actor/singer Ben Smith, all smouldering pouts and posturing, did his best Mercury impression throughout.
It’s a great one for Queen fans. I don’t think anyone went home disappointed. Touring to Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Inverness, Norwich, Oxford and Glasgow.
The Scots should particularly like Nathan’s choice of opening costume – a rather fetching leather kilt – but not so sure that he has the figure for those revealing skin-tight leggings in the finale!