We Will Rock You: In Conversation with Michael McKell

we will Rock You is a musical jukebox based on the songs of the legendary band Queen. As the show celebrates its 20th anniversary, I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Mckell, who has played the character of ‘Cliff’ for the past 3 years.

The award-winning actor adds the musical to his impressive repertoire. He rose to fame in the mid-1990s as the character of Tony in a series of British television commercials for the Peugeot 106 car, alongside Julie Graham and Annie Dunkley. He was the face of Ancestry in their 2019 national campaign.

Mckell is known for his appearances in soap operas: doctors, Emmerdaleand a small but memorable role in EastEnders. He is known for dramas like murder investigation team, totally frankY Blessed. He starred in the British cult film essex boys and is even known for his contributions to Hollywood cinema, acting alongside Brad Pitt in the Ally. He is no stranger to the stage, performing with the band The Park, as well as in the 1990s production of Macbeth.

Mckell spoke passionately about we will Rock You. He explains, “The show is set in the future when crowds can no longer see the bands live.” Although Ben Elton (who The Mancunion interviewed a few years ago) created the musical two decades ago, the plot is perhaps even more relevant to our post-pandemic world. McKell praised Elton for his unique foresight: “He wrote this years ago; he predicted it. He has even previously written about billionaires making rockets and flying them into space.”

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If anyone needs lottery number predictions, it looks like Ben Elton is the one.

Mckell describes his character, Cliff, as “a cross between the cowardly lion and the tin man.” He points out Elton’s genius again: “I get funny because of Ben Elton! He only knows one audience.”

A good script combined with the music of Queen will surely make for a good night. Mckell comments on the translation of rock music to the stage: “The show is not a traditional musical: it’s sweaty, it’s rock and roll, we have a rock band.” He notes, “It’s extraordinary and gives a great feeling of community.”

Queen have rightfully earned a firm place in music history. Her music is important to many, including Mckell, who was “lucky enough to have seen Queen play live”. He explains why her music has such a strong hold decades later: “Her music of hers has become the fabric of this country. […] Queen, along with Bowie and Nile Rogers, reinvented the commercial.” He comments, “Their music breaks all the rules.”

Queen have too many hits to name; Mckell notes, “The show isn’t long enough to have all the hits.” But the musical still manages to fit in an impressive 24 songs!

Mckell’s passion for acting was evident throughout the interview; he seemed extremely appreciative of his career opportunities, which bring joy to both him and the audience. He explains: “The love of the audience, we can enjoy that as artists; we are just very lucky. The pressure to perform can be intense at the best of times, but especially so when you’re living up to the Queen legacy. Mckell comments: The responsibility is huge.” But the collaborations of such a talented talent, and as Mckell describes “extraordinary cast”, leave no worries of disappointment.

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if you’re not sure we will Rock You is for you, Mckell’s thoughtful synopsis should convince you: “If you want to be far away from any problem, worry or anxiety and indulge in two and a half hours of pure entertainment, come see the best rock show there is.”

We Will Rock You runs at Manchester’s Palace Theater from September 5-10, the last stop on their UK tour.

Take a look at our previous review of we will Rock Youour Queen + Adam Lambert review the rhapsody tourand our review of (and interview with) Ben Elton.

Written by Jessica Hamilton.

Note: This article was originally published shortly after the interview, but is one of several articles that were lost during a WordPress update.

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