Before former Maclean High School student Hugh Barrington met Ben Elton on the rehearsal set of We Will Rock You, he had decided not to bring his boxed set of Black Adder for Elton to sign.
“I was very tempted,” Barrington says, “maybe I’ll bring it on opening night; he’s an absolutely hilarious guy to work with, to be in the same room with, really.”
Elton is the co-writer and director of the We Will Rock You musical, which features the music of Queen, and the Black Adder television series; Barrington has landed himself a role in the new Australian production of the musical – he plays “five or six” ensemble characters and is one of two understudies for the lead role, Galileo.
Elton says he never tires of “working with a We Will Rock You company because it’s all about discovering the individual talent and liberating the rock bones and the comedy bones of each and every artist”.
The Independent spoke with Barrington on the day before rehearsals moved to the Sydney Lyric Theatre, where the show starts a seven-week season before touring to Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.
He says several weeks of intense rehearsals – from 10am to 6pm six days a week – have been “pretty hectic”, however, “at the same time it’s what we love to do”.
“It’s starting to get very, very real.”
Barrington recalls how the music program at Maclean High readied him to follow his dreams.
He says teacher Matt Fisher was the “key driving force”, and lavished praise on Helen Bowie, “who was like a second mother” to him, and Alex Hickey; “the three of them are like the absolute dream team”.
“Maclean High is incredibly lucky to have them.”
Little did Barrington know that when Matt Fisher took students to see the original Australian production of We Will Rock You at QPAQ in Brisbane that he would one day be in the show.
“I thought, ‘I’d love to do that’, and here we are,” he chuckles. “I had a lot of fun performing in Maclean High musicals.”
Fisher says Barrington made his debut in the school’s production of Wizard of Oz, which was followed by lead roles in Bye Bye Birdie and The Buddy Holly Story.
“Hugh was always very focussed on the direction he wanted to travel; he was extremely dedicated and followed his dream. He took a year off to go to NIDA to focus on dance and choreography, which was a weakness,” he says.
“He is also the only student from Maclean in recent years, to have been selected to perform the HSC repertoire at the Sydney Opera House – only 20 students across the state are selected each year.”
On his time so far during the rehearsal phase, Barrington says the band that plays Queen’s music is “absolutely amazing and so tight; some of the guys have travelled the world playing the show”.
What is his expectation re having a shot at playing Galileo if the leading man has a day or two off?
“(Laughs) It’s a massive thing; if you’ve seen Queen, Freddie Mercury has a screaming-high rock tenor, so if you get a bit of a sniffle, even if you could sing the entire show, sometimes you take it off, or don’t push yourself or damage yourself.
“If it happens, it happens.
“The roles I have in the ensemble are pretty amazing, I play five or six different characters; I have, like, a wig… when I look at myself in the mirror when, I have trouble recognising myself, so good luck to anyone trying to find me (laughs).”
Go to wewillrockyou.com.au to find out where and when the show plays.