Keeping Freddie alive: One Night of Queen is a kind of magic

By Christian Carvajal on April 8, 2015

"Fairy tales of yesterday will grow but never die

I can fly, my friends..." - Queen (from Innuendo, 1991)

The great Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Stone Town, Tanzania (then the Sultanate of Zanzibar) and was raised Zoroastrian near Mumbai. At age 24, he joined guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, formerly of the band Smile, and named their new enterprise Queen. Thanks in large part to his astonishing vocal range and power - he could easily cover four octaves from bass low F to soprano high F -he was an international star less than five years later. Like Little Richard and Elvis before him, he defined rock performance for a generation. He electrified 72,000 people at Live Aid in 1985, not counting millions more who watched on TV. Six years later, a day after acknowledging he was HIV-positive, Mercury died at home. He was 45. We have not seen his equal since.

Gary Mullen, on the other hand, was born in Scotland around the time Queen released its first album. He remembers seeing a live performance of "We Are the Champions" when he was four. His wife and mother entered the mild-mannered computer salesman and cancer survivor in a British reality show called Stars in Their Eyes. There, his impression of Mercury's "It's a Kind of Magic" launched him toward a season win in 2000. He assembled his touring band, the Works, two years later. Out of makeup, Mullen looks and sounds nothing like Freddie Mercury; but put a wig, mustache and tight costume on him, and he morphs into a veritable Prince of the Universe.

I've regretted many times not being able to see Freddie Mercury live before his passing. Queen still tours with Adam Lambert, but for me it wouldn't be the same. That's why I'm so looking forward to Gary Mullen and The Works's upcoming performance as One Night of Queen. Their recreation of the band is so spot-on they remain in contact with Brian May himself. And while Mullen's the first to admit he's not Mercury's equal, he's played for as many as 40,000 people in Mercury's stead. Freddie Mercury was Gary Mullen's hero ... and one of mine. Now, decades later, thanks to One Night of Queen, we get to relive Mercury's special kind of magic. "The Show," after all, "Must Go On."

ONE NIGHT OF QUEEN, 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 10, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $16-$52, 360.753.8586