June 27, 2004
Byline: David Belcher For the Journal
Albuquerque singer to make another bow to Queen in musical.
From London to the Vegas Strip, Tony Vincent's journey is part Freddie Mercury, part Wayne Newton.
An Albuquerque kid who found his gutsy singing voice in Christian rock has traveled the high road both spiritually and professionally in the world of music and musical theater. And after landing the lead role two years ago in "We Will Rock You," the London musical based on the songs of the '70s rock band Queen, Vincent enjoyed the kind of theatrical success that Queen frontman Mercury would have envied.
And as "We Will Rock You" prepares for its North American debut in Las Vegas, Nev., Vincent will once again be belting out some Queen standards. Another Vegas showman is born -- albeit somewhat reluctantly.
"This has all been kind of unexpected," Vincent said this week after his first day of rehearsals. "It's not been what I planned. If I wanted to be part of the show again, I wanted it to be in New York. But that's not how it all happened."
In fact, there are currently no plans to bring the show to Broadway. And the Las Vegas mounting will differ from London, with some changes that Vincent welcomes.
"It is a different show and is being edited out here for a different audience," Vincent said. "They're packing in 10 shows a week. It's a lighter storyline given the time restraints per Vegas contracts."
Instead of eight shows a week at more than 2 1/2 hours, "We Will Rock You" is now under two hours in length. And at 10 shows a week, his role has been double-cast. Vincent will only perform five times a week. Several songs and book scenes have been cut. But Vincent will still sing some standard Queen hits such as "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are the Champions."
"I'm having to unlearn what I learned in London," said Vincent, who is committed to the show for a year. "The Vegas audience doesn't want a big dramatic piece. We don't have the liberty and luxury of telling a weighty story like we did when we did one show a night." The storyline will, however, still be the same. Vincent plays Galileo Figaro (cue first Queen song), a rebellious youngster in a futuristic police state on Planet Mall (once called Earth) where all music is illegal. He and his friends have heard of a historical phenomenon called "rock 'n' roll" and legend says that an ancient god's ax lies buried deep within a rock and was placed there for future generations would need it for inspiration.
A rebellious group of Bohemians (cue second Queen song) are looking for a hero to find this fabled ax and play the ancient rock songs. An evil Killer Queen (cue third Queen song) who runs Planet Mall is hot on the Bohemians' trail in a good-vs.-evil, boy-meets-girl plot.
Growing up in Albuquerque, Vincent was introduced to synthesizers and sampling. He worked a part-time job to buy his first keyboard, attended Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., after graduating from La Cueva High School in 1991, and created his own independent record company from his college dorm room.
After promoting his album to local record stores, "Love Falling Down" received local airplay around Nashville. The song hit the national Christian rock charts, and EMI's Starsong Records signed Vincent to a contract in 1994.
His first solo album with Starsong, "Tony Vincent," was released in 1995. He toured, released the self-titled album, recorded his third album, "One Deed," and then decided to move away from Christian rock. He went to New York and landed roles in the Broadway and touring companies of "Rent" and then the pivotal role of Judas in the critically lambasted "Jesus Christ Superstar," for which he originally had been cast as Simon Zealotes.
In a last-minute casting change, Vincent was offered the role of Judas, a role with similar vocal demands that he would later embrace in "We Will Rock You."
This all was a bit intimidating for a guy who had been in a production of "Oliver!" with Musical Theatre Southwest and a high school production of "The Lion in Winter."
After "Jesus Christ Superstar" bombed on Broadway, Vincent recorded music in Los Angeles and London, where he got a call from his manager about auditioning for "We Will Rock You" and was told that the show's producers had been trying to find someone to sing the role of Galileo Figaro for eight months.
Vincent found himself auditioning for Queen ex-guitarist Brian May and ex-drummer Roger Taylor who are involved creatively in the show. The script was written by Ben Elton, who has written other plays and musicals, including "Tonight's the Night," billed as "The Rod Stewart Musical," which just bombed in the West End.
Vincent was offered the role (the only American in the London production), the show became a huge box-office smash, and the hard-to-please London critics slammed it.
Part of the problem has been the show's concept. It originally was supposed to tell the life story of Mercury, Queen's flamboyant and indulgent lead singer who died of AIDS. This surely could have been theatrical -- almost operatic -- but not exactly a family show. Despite a less-than-well-received plot line and some '70s rock songs that might not lure the Shakespearean set, "We Will Rock You" is a blockbuster, with productions in Sydney, Madrid, Melbourne, Barcelona, Cologne and Moscow.
Vincent stayed with the London show for nearly two years, returning to his home in New York in December. He was there for six months before being offered the role in the Las Vegas mounting.
"When I returned to New York there was always the question of what I was going to do with regards to my music," Vincent said. "It didn't seem like the rock music scene was happening in New York. I was writing in my own apartment, working at studios, but I didn't feel like the work was going anywhere."
And after two years of belting out Queen songs to thrilled audiences, the lure of live performance proved to be too much. "I was happy how my songwriting was turning out, but I wasn't performing live," he explained. "So when that's not present, I start losing fuel and second-guessing what I'm doing."
The move west also puts him closer to his parents, Peter and Linda Strascina, who live in Albuquerque, as do his sister and her husband. The move also puts him closer to the music industry in Los Angeles. It feels like a bit of a homecoming.
If you go:
WHAT: "We Will Rock You," the Queen musical
WHEN: Performances begin Aug. 16. Mondays at 9 p.m.; Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.; no shows on Thursdays; Fridays at 9 p.m.; Saturdays at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.; Sundays at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
WHERE: Le Theatre des Arts, Paris Las Vegas, in Las Vegas, Nev.
HOW MUCH: $80.50, $97 and $113.50, plus $3 charge per ticket. Call (877) 374-7469 or go to www.parislasvegas.com.
Tony Vincent, center, is Galileo Figaro in the London production of "We Will Rock You," which begins performances Aug. 16 at the Paris Las Vegas resort.