Queen for a day

DOING THE FAN-DANGO | Gary Mullen was a huge fan of Queen before filling in as the legendary bisexual frontman Freddie Mercury in the tribute show coming to Music Hall.

Gary Mullen, frontman for cover band One Night of Queen, fills Mercury’s tight pants just fine

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Cover bands get no respect. You can’t help but wonder why they play other people’s music, never their own. They have the musicianship, so why not the song catalogue?

It’s a tough argument to make. But when it gets to the level of world tours and actually paying the bills, well, Gary Mullen might have a little something to say about what he does.

“We have side projects, but this takes up most of our year,” says the lead singer for the group The Works. “We’re all creating music and have other bands. Music is in all of our lifeblood, but we have fun with this.”

“This” would be Mullen and his band, the guys behind One Night of Queen, a show of Queen hits that stops in Dallas on Saturday. Yes, Mullen fills in for perhaps the frontman of all frontmen, Freddie Mercury. The band is convincing enough that it’s been turned into a concert experience and takes them on the road worldwide. Fortunately, Mullen doesn’t get swept up in false ideas of whom he plays and who he is.

“I have to approach it with a bit of caution,” he says in a charming, thick Scottish accent. “I’m not Freddie, but I do want it to be convincing. I try to treat him in a way that’s the guy onstage, but I’m the guy offstage. I have to do that with a bit of caution.”

Life changed for the former computer salesman when he won an American Idol-like TV contest, Stars in Their Eyes, in 2000. Using that boost, he and his band took their Queen act on the road, selling out venues and growing it into an entirely higher level. The show replicates a Queen concert at their most successful period, touching mostly on the mid-’80s Magic Tour. Adding flavors of the band in the ‘70s and ‘90s, One Night of Queen has garnered the attention of original Queen member Brian May and even “massive Queen fan” Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The bisexual Mercury, of course, is legendary to the LGBT continuum and Mullen, who is straight, and his band have found their gay fans along the way.

“We’ve played a gay Pride festival in Scotland and they showed us a damn good time,” he says. “Although one couple wanted me to come home with them.”

No doubt they got caught up in the moment as Mullen says the fans do. But he admits that he’s not like Mercury in one way that might have disappointed those boys.

“Well, I’m more phallically challenged,” he confesses.

Gotcha. So long as the music is killer, we will let you rock us.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

What has he done to deserve this?

Music director Adam Wright glams Uptown Players’ Pet Shop Boys musical

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

WEST END GAYS | ‘Closer to Heaven’ explores the dark world of gay ’80s  London through the music of the Pet Shop Boys.  (Photo courtesy  Mike Morgan)
WEST END GAYS | ‘Closer to Heaven’ explores the dark world of gay ’80s London through the music of the Pet Shop Boys. (Photo courtesy Mike Morgan)

CLOSER TO HEAVEN
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
Oct. 1–24. $30–$40.
UptownPlayers.org

………………………………………..

Mention the Pet Shop Boys and what comes to mind is techno-pop — hardly the stuff of musical theater. But when Uptown Players opens Closer To Heaven Friday, that mindset will change. The company is producing the sole stage venture by the band, which comes with the same tone as their albums. And that means the production’s musical director, Adam Wright — whose background is in classical and jazz music — is doing some major gear-shifting.

“We had to reconstruct a lot of the music,” he says. “The music that was sent with the materials had just two parts and not a lot to go off of.”

His job might have gone easier if Wright were in communication with the Pet Shop Boys … or if he was already a fan.

“The extent of my communication with them was through their Twitter updates,” he says. “I’d love to learn more about how they program and write. I wasn’t as much a fan as some of the people in the cast. My parents did buy me the Liza Minnelli album Results they produced. I’m certainly more of a fan now after working on this.”

The subject of the musical is perhaps more relatable to Wright. Set in gay London in the 1980s, it’s a dark show with racy queer content he can appreciate. But the task of turning that vibe into a musical theater idiom was a challenge.

Wright had only the original London cast recording to work from, which is dominated by the Pet Shop Boys electronica sound, which he orchestrated for a six-man band to offer a live concert experience. His priority, however, was staying true to the songs PSB wrote.

“With electric drums and two keyboards, we can mimic some of that techno sound,” he says. “There are some guitar moments. It’s really intricate programming and having the band makes it easier and way less complicated.”

His musicians will not only recreate the dance beats, but also meld them in accord with choreography and plot — and PSB’s signature style.

“There is a lot more going on in the songs than you think, so it was pretty daunting,” he says. “Normally with a live band, embellishments are added, but we had to stick to the appropriate style. Even the minimal songs have a repetitive, dance-y nature.”

All that required a close collaboration between Wright, director Bruce Coleman and choreographer John de los Santos. Wright especially sympathized with the challenge de los Santos faced of balancing fluid and narrative movement against Wright’s job to keep the proper but continuous beat of the music — and to primarily keep the audience interested.

“There have been ups and downs in this creative process,” he says. “I’ve certainly felt overwhelmed, but I enjoy the challenge doing new things. That motivates me even if I have to pace in a circle for an hour until it comes to me.”

With weeks of preparation and arranging, Wright’s work still hadn’t clicked with him until Uptown began running the full show in rehearsals. After seeing it as one cohesive piece, he settled and relieved some of his stress going in.

“At that point, it felt possible and easy,” he says. Now he’s more concerned if the audience will be fans: Many out-of-towners are flying in especially for the show, which makes its North American debut — but Uptown knows this is difficult material. The litmus test will be opening night.

“I know some expect a certain kind of music in theater, but the nice thing is the show starts with a bang and they’ll know right away what they are in for. “

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Gaga Countdown: Parties and afterparties galore — oooh, and more tickets just released

Lady Gaga

You’d have to know that after Lady Gaga’s final song for the night, that the Monster Ball wouldn’t end there. Whether it’s official or not, clubland is buzzing with after parties following the concert. The Brick jumps the gun by getting their Gaga party in Wednesday night. If you’re still feeling “Starstruck,” then continue your adventure at these spots. They each give you the lowdown on their fab-tastic post concert experience.

Station 4 – “Calling all Little Monsters: GAGA Giant Afterparty at Station 4 on Thursday July 22 and Friday July 23. Bring your concert ticket stub and get in free (21+). Two nights of Lady Gaga’s greatest hits. After the concerts, head over to S4 and JUST DANCE!”

GhostbarNou Wav Thursdays and the House of Gaga host the “official afterparty” on Thursday. What makes it so official? Um, that would be because opening act Semi Precious Weapons will be there to perform a DJ set. So, we’d say that makes it pretty legit. Now, will Ms. Gaga? Well, we wonder.

Plush – So it’s not a gay club. Don’t worry. Ultra lounges are really just a Cosmopolitan away from being gay bars. Plush will host a look-alike-contest and ticket stubs get you in as VIP.

Dish goes Gaga Thursday with its Monster Ball Afterparty. G-tunes, inspired cocktails and a costume contest for Friday night tickets will be part of the bash. Dish also hosts a performance by “Dallas’ top Lady Gaga impersonator,” whoever that may be.

If you’re lacking for fun, then there’s nothing more I can do for you.

THIS JUST IN via Twitter — LiveNationDAL JUST ANNOUNCED — Additional tickets just released for Lady Gaga 7/22 & 7/23 at AAC! Get them before they sell out!

—  Rich Lopez