BWW Interviews: Queen's Musical Has Had a Profound Effect on Peck

Erica Peck was about five years old when Freddie Mercury died but the flamboyant lead singer for Queen has made a major impact on the Canadian singer's life.

Peck will be playing the role of Ozzy when the musical WE WILL ROCK YOU rolls into Columbus on Jan. 7-14 at the Palace Theatre.

"I experienced a lot of Queen's music from a secondary source," Peck says in a telephone interview from Fort Myers, Fla. "I learned Bohemian Rhapsody from WAYNE'S WORLD - which is still my favorite movie.

"The funny thing with this show is even if you think you don't know too many Queen songs, you probably know every one of the songs in the show. Their music is everywhere. They're in commercials and on the radio."

And now, the Queen catalog is the centerpiece of the script penned by Ben Elton (a British comedian and writer for THE YOUNG ONES and BLACKADDER). In the musical, a group of young Bohemians rebel against a dominating society that limits fashion, music and thought. If George Orwell's 1984 and Freddie Mercury lyrics had a baby, it'd look and sound a lot like WE WILL ROCK YOU.

This national tour is Peck's second go-around with the musical. Her first musical employment came when Elton, Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor selectEd Peck, then 19, to play Scaramouche in for Toronto premiere of WE WILL ROCK YOU.

The role seemed tailor-made for the quirky dressing Peck. Peck did four shows on CANADIAN IDOL before being cut and struggled to fit in Sheridan College's music theater program. After being told by professors she'd never make it in the industry, she abruptly quit the program after being cast in as a lead.

"I was a bit of a rock and roll girl and (Sheridan was) more of a classical school. Now that a few years have passed, I see their efforts they were making," she says with a laugh. "I have to credit them greatly. In the years since I've left, they have made leaps and bounds in their program. I think if I went to Sheridan now I would have a much different experience. That's normally the type of thing you can see after a few years in the business."

After WE WILL ROCK YOU closed in Toronto, Peck proved to be a musical chameleon, taking on the roles of Mary Maguire in Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE BOYS IN THE PHOTOGRAPH, Maria in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Penny Pingleton in HAIRSPRAY and Lucy in YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN.

"You want to keep some of yourself in each character but you ask yourself if you were this person, how you would do it?" Peck says. "I try to put myself in that person's shoes."

A pair of outlandish boots and wigs helpEd Peck make the transition to Ozzy, a cynical Bohemian rebel leader.

"Ozzy is the complete opposite of Scaramouche. She's a leader, physically strong, sexy and loves to rock," Peck says. "I couldn't figure out how to (become) to be tough, strong and in your face like she was.

"(Assistant director Tracey Flye) had this idea of giving me these boots that weigh about 1,000 pounds. (Turning into that character became) so much easier the second I put those boots on."

Peck admits she was a little nervous when she auditioned for the musical the second time around. When she stepped on to the stage for the audition for the American tour, she looked out and saw Elton, Taylor, May and actor Robert De Niro, who is serving as the tour's producer sitting about four feet away from the stage.

"That was terrifying. You go 'Oh wow, that's one of the greatest actors in American history,'" Peck says. "Roger says "Oh my gosh, it's Erica. You got married?'

"(May and Taylor) are always involved in the casting of WE WILL ROCK YOU. They were there for the auditions and played with us at the opening of the tour in Baltimore."

Peck says not only has her role in the show changed but the script for WE WILL ROCK YOU has also transformed. Elton spent six weeks updating the script and revamping it for American audiences. He even included a Miley Cyrus joke.

Peck says performing the show with intricate melodies and vocals is a demanding but gratifying grind.

"You have to remember: Queen didn't perform eight times a week," Peck says. "When we're doing a show, we have to completely change our lives. It changes your whole life when you're doing a show that's this demanding. But the reward is so fantastic that it's completely worth it."

WE WILL ROCK YOU runs Jan. 7-12 at the Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad Street). For tickets, call the CAPA Ticket Center at 614-469-0939 or Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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