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Preview: Bohemian Rhapsody at Theatre Royal Newcastle

IF you were to imagine music’s opposite number to Freddie Mercury someone very like Jonathan Ansell might come to mind.

Jonathan Ansell who stars in Bohemian Rhapsody
Jonathan Ansell who stars in Bohemian Rhapsody

IF you were to imagine music’s opposite number to Freddie Mercury someone very like Jonathan Ansell might come to mind.

He’s a choirboy from Bognor Regis who made it with three other nice boys in the pop-opera group G4 before hitting the heights as a solo singer with his debut album Tenor At The Movies.

The tenor has more recently been lured into musical theatre and his latest venture is Bohemian Rhapsody in which he takes on the hits of Queen. But Queen fanatics need not worry, he isn’t going to play the part of Freddie. This show is about “paying homage to the music of Queen”.

Jonathan, 30, who has an 18-month-old daughter, says: “Bohemian Rhapsody includes all the best Queen songs in a concert stage production. There are nine phenomenal singers from West End productions in the show and we are blasting our way through Queen’s greatest hits.

“We have picked out the songs which make us go ‘wow’ and have tried to put them in an order which does them all justice. There are amazing live musicians in the show and original amps which will give it an authentic sound.

He adds: “It’s a fun spectacle but not us in any way trying to recreate Queen.”

Jonathan joined West Sussex Boys’ Choir at the age of eight and went on tours with the choir in Europe and the States until his voice broke aged 16. He also grew up listening to Queen and recently performed Somebody To Love at The Sage Gateshead while supporting Ramin Karimloo. Jonathan says: “I think the energy of Queen, particularly on the live albums, is electric. The spectacle that Freddie Mercury created was incredible.

“I love the drama that Queen’s music creates and it evokes power, emotion and gravitas. It really grabs you, both as a performer and audience member.”

Singer Michael Ball, best known for roles in Les Misérables, in addition to songs such as Love Changes Everything, was a big inspiration to Jonathan when he was growing up.

He says: “I have always admired Michael Ball and hope to take an ounce of what he did and recreate it to some extent.”

Jonathan studied opera at the Guildhall School of Music in London, where he met the other members of G4. The boys finished second on The X Factor in 2004 and the band were hugely successful before breaking up in 2007.

Jonathan says: “It was an amazing place to train with like-minded people and phenomenal tutors. The daunting thing was that I had a scholarship for opera and when The X Factor happened I had to tell the head that I was pursuing pop rather than opera. But it all worked out!

“I’ve enjoyed the recording time I’ve had with G4 and on my own, but theatre is always where I wanted to end up and I have been able to explore that more recently.

“It is really exciting, varied and a fun side of the industry.” He adds: “I have departed from the traditional operatic route and in the past few years have gone further to explore different timbres and tones in my voice.

“Bohemian Rhapsody represents my rocky, edgy side. But I’m comfortable with it vocally. People worry that I’m doing myself harm as I have a raspy edge. It sounds dangerous but it’s not.

“Operatic training holds you in good stead for performing like this. It feels like a natural and comfortable transition into the various styles of musical theatre. I love rock and it’s really good fun rocking out. It’s something you can get your teeth right into and run with. It’s exciting from start to finish.”

Bohemian Rhapsody, produced by David King whose first production was the hit Spirit of the Dance, premieres at the Theatre Royal before embarking on a UK and then world tour.

Jonathan says: “Hopefully Bohemian Rhapsody will connect with a new audience who never saw Queen live and maybe just know a few of their songs. I think this a great way of remembering how amazing they were as a band. It is definitely fit for a new audience.”

Bohemian Rhapsody is at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal from June 20-23. Tickets from 0844 811 2121 or www.theatreroyal.co.uk


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