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THEATRE - “We Will Rock You” Arrives Home

A Look At Alberta Produced Touring Production of Queen Musical

Theatre Preview by Jason Clevett (From December 2019 Online)
We Will Rock You - North America 2019 & 2020
We Will Rock You - North America 2019 & 2020
Image by: Randy Feere
THEATRE - “We Will Rock You” Arrives Home: A Look At Alberta Produced Touring Production of Queen Musical
Image by: Randy Feere
THEATRE - “We Will Rock You” Arrives Home: A Look At Alberta Produced Touring Production of Queen Musical
Image by: Randy Feere

When the Queen Jukebox Musical We Will Rock You hits Alberta for multiple dates across the province later this month, it’s a homecoming of sorts. Produced by the Canadian branch of Annerin Productions, the show features a primarily Albertan cast and crew. Calgarian Danny Gullekson is one of the ensemble in the show and chatted with on a break from the tour.

"The goal from the get-go was to try to cast the entire production out of Alberta. 10 of the 16 performers, our entire production team and band is Alberta based. There was a call put out here in Calgary for. I submitted my name and then was given specifics for a video audition. And then after that received call backs to come do an in-person audition with a dance call, reading sides, singing prepared songs and solos. It was quite a process. Two months after the initial audition I finally got on an email with a contract offer."

Part of acting life is the waiting game, trying to sort out your schedule and auditions.

"The waiting game is excruciating! It's got to be the worst part of this industry, you walk out of the audition room and you're thinking Hey, that went well. You just wait and you wait, and you wait. They were great in this process about sending along emails along the way saying, Hey, our casting process has been delayed. It’s still that everyday you wake up and you check your email like a crazy person because you think maybe today's the day. When you finally hear back that you got it then the wait was perfect."

Although Gullekson has experience being away on the road, having toured with Jubilations Dinner Theatre, it’s an entirely different experience this time. For most touring theatre shows they are in town for a week or more. "We Will Rock You" is more like a touring musician schedule with a different city each night in many spots.

"This is unlike anything I've ever done before. We would hit city after city on our tour bus which has bunks, a little kitchenette and lounges. We could sleep decently well on the tour buses which would drive through the night. You would wake up in the morning in a new city and you would have no idea where you were. Sometimes you were in a parking lot, sometimes you were on a street parked downtown or be in a field. I’d wake up in the day and you would just sort of navigate, where am I? Where's coffee? Where's breakfast? What city am I in?"

One of the highlights of the tour thus far has been adding "Off Broadway Performance" to his resume, bringing the show to the iconic Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"New York was incredible. To say we got to perform at Madison Square Garden was just surreal. This was the first production of We Will Rock You ever go through New York. That alone was exciting. We got to perform at the Microsoft Theater in LA, which like MSG Madison is just iconic. They do the Emmy's there, so many big names have performed there. It's such a beautiful, stunning theater. San Antonio, Texas, we got to see a beautiful old theater. A lot of the theaters we performed in were built back in the 1920s. The architecture and the chandelier's you would see in the design of the theaters was absolutely stunning. To say in three months, we got to perform off the Las Vegas strip, in LA, New York, New Orleans. It’s just unreal."

Performing a show that ranges in venues from arenas to theatres provided a different challenge every night.

"That was probably one of our biggest challenges. You'd walk into a venue and sometimes management would say okay guys, the loading dock doors weren't big enough for us to get the rolling staircases. So today we're going to get the show without the staircase. Different venues had different stages and different sizes.  Initially at the start of the tour was a big challenge for us.  After awhile we were able to just walk in and stage management would say okay guys, today’s show is plan B. I think that's one of an actor's greatest strengths on a tour. Learning how to be adaptable because every venue and stage is going to be different. Every wing, every backstage, all a little bit different. So, you know, the more adaptable and more flexible you can be, the easier that transition is going to be for sure."

Many picture life on the road as a blur of tourist attractions, bars and immersing yourself in local culture. Visiting cities like New Orleans, Las Vegas and LA doesn’t give the opportunity to see much of the local sites.

"I think initially you sort of have this idea that in every city I'm going to go do this and I'm going to go explore. Very quickly it became I'm going to make sure that in the big cities I get out and do these things. It’s knowing what you need. Some of my castmates are in their young twenties and just had all the energy in the world to go do everything all the time. And then there were some of us who are in our thirties who made sure that we took our time to rest when we needed it."

Gullekson made the most of the opportunities when presented.

"We made our best effort. If our soundcheck wasn't until three in the afternoon, then we had the morning to go explore. We would sort of pre-emptively look at the city and go Oh we’ve got to go see that.  We were only in New Orleans for the one day and it was the earliest everyone on the bus had ever gotten up. We were hitting the streets and made sure to hit up the market right away. I think every single person at some point hit up Cafe du Monde to do the beignets. Our bus call that night wasn’t until 1:30 in the morning so we all jumped in some Uber's went downtown to check out the jazz scene. A lot of the cities we laughed and went I need to get back there. I think one week where we did seven or eight show in seven different cities in seven days. And it just takes a toll on you, on your voice and on your body. And even mentally it can be a little challenging. It was really nice when we'd be in a city for two or more days and we'd have a hotel room where you get a chance to do laundry or unpack your suitcase. The Canadian leg is going to be a little bit different. We have a lot of three-day stops. Then a couple of four day stops. That'll be nice. I feel like we really made the most of the time that we had in each city."

As a massive Queen fan, Gullekson says the show has a broad appeal.

"I knew just about every song in the show. Through doing review shows over the years I have some, my fair share of 70s and 80s rock. It takes place in a dystopian future where essentially everybody moves the same, dresses the same talks the same and the world is basically run by a giant corporation known as Globalsoft. We meet a couple of rebels named Galileo and Scaramouche. They don't fit in and they don't belong in it. They meet up with a bunch of rebels known as the Bohemians and it's sort of about their battle and fighting the man and ultimately finding the power of rock and what music really means to being an individual and letting your freak flag fly."

While many shows these days make you think, others like Bat Out of Hell, Mamma Mia, and We Will Rock You are about having a good time with familiar music.

"Some brands, there's a really important message, whether it's mental health or politics or whatever you want your message to be. There’s a lot of that on Broadway right now. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and just sort of be taken on a ride, hear great tunes, see great choreography and digital effects. I truly believe that's what our show brings. We see people in their seventies in the audience alongside kids wearing Queen t-shirts that know all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody. Queen's music stretches it across multiple generations."

For Gullekson performing on the Jubilee Auditorium stage where he’s seen countless shows in front of family, friends, and people who have seen him perform locally is extra special.

"I remember being a little kid at the Jubilee and thinking to myself, Oh God, cool, I want to do that one day. Over the years I've seen a lot of shows at the Jubilee - it is one of the biggest stages in Calgary. I remember in high school watching a production of Aladdin and watching and just going I wonder what those lives are like. To be able to do it myself is really is just a dream come true. A lot of people probably would have said that Alberta can't do it. A lot of companies hire their talent right out of Toronto all the time and people say the pool isn't big enough in Alberta. There was definitely an element of going into the show where we felt like underdogs and you know, so to be here, standing here, performing on the big stages and, and rocking out and I feel so proud, you know."

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Contributor Jason Clevett |

Locale Calgary | Edmonton | Lethbridge | Medicine Hat | Red Deer |

Topic Theatre |


Image by: Randy Feere

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