It’s one of the biggest rock musicals in decades and a resident of Windsor-Essex is currently on tour with the North American touring version.
For Sean Sennett touring with the large scale production is a dream come true and the opportunity of a lifetime. Sadly, the show only plays west of Toronto three times – twice at Caesars Windsor on Nov. 29 and 30 and once at FirstOntario Concert Hall in Hamilton on Feb. 1.
We had a chance to chat with Sean during rehearsals for the show’s opening in Las Vegas this month.
It’s pretty awesome seeing someone from the 519 in a touring show. How did you get to the We Will Rock You gig?
Well that’s very sweet. I was doing a show in Toronto right after I graduated called Pregnancy Pact, and this wonderful colleague of mine, Katie Miller, she let me know that one of her friends was in a show that needed another person. So I was like, “Okay, let’s swap peerage.” She sent over submission material. I’m like, “It’s an actual tour. Okay? We Will Rock You. What is this?” And then I had to get other material for a certain role. I just contacted Ann Rand about three days later. I submitted the tape for it, and then about four days after that, I was auditioning in Toronto for Rocky Horror Picture Show.
It’s funny because my dance captain for We Will Rock You was the person auditioning me for that show in Toronto. And so, after I was done with that audition, apparently, they had placed me in that show. They agreed to give me a role in it. And a couple of days later, Amelia ,who turned out to be the dance captain, she noticed that I was on the mailing list for We Will Rock You and she was like, “All right, guys, that’s a lot.” They’re like, “Yeah, I don’t think you’re going to be taking it this year. I think you’re going to be doing this tour.” And so, yeah, I found out that I had a tour later that day in Toronto for that audition.
Where were you when you found out you got the gig?
I was in Toronto. I was at Union Station. I was outside. There’s like this little sort of patio setup that they had set up. They had a bunch of different catering venues, little shops. Just having dinner with my girlfriend and my best friend came out with me, actually. Because they weren’t doing anything. So they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll come along.” And so my girlfriend went to the bathroom. My buddy was searching his phone and I just happened to check my email. Just freaked out in Union Square… or Union Station. People were looking at me like “What the hell’s going on?” (laugh)
This is a dream come true, for sure. And I’d been talking about it as if it was a huge dream. I’m like, “Oh, if I get this, I’ll be on tour on my birthday.” But, who knows. You never know what’s going to happen. Sure enough.
I want you to describe the show in your own words.
Okay. It’s a jukebox musical that uses Queen’s biggest hits. There are twenty-five songs in there. And it sort of follows this group of Bohemians as they try to find this secret ax that’s buried in order to get back their freedom on this iPlanet that the Killer Queen sort of rules over. It follows their journey to getting this ax. The people in high school become these Yuppies along the way who follow the Killer Queen. And so it’s like sort of George Orwell-esque in the sense that you have Big Brother, this Killer Queen watching over everything and anything to make sure that this weapon of freedom, this ax doesn’t fall into the hands of the Bohemians, because she ultimately will fail because of that.
What is your role in the show?
I’m part of the ensemble. I play Paul McCartney. The Bohemians, they don’t really get names at birth. You get sort of like… well, I guess everybody on the iPlanet get sort of like a webpage… It sounds very weird. But, you get sort of a webpage as your name and that’s how people contact you and stuff. The group of Bohemians, these are like rebels, band together and find these posters of old, old rock and roll stars and they take their names from those. So, I’m playing Paul McCartney. I’m also understudying one of the leads, Buddy, who’s full name is Buddy Holly and the Crickets. That’s what I’m doing, which is definitely a lot of work and it was a little stressful to start learning my track and also his. But you get used to it and it’s turned out fine so far.
How hard is it to do your lines and then also do the understudy of one of the main characters?
So anything that he’s in that I’m not in, I have to learn. It’s kind of interesting because all the leads have taken on double roles as well because we only have a cast of fifteen. So, any of his ensemble roles, any of the dances that he’s in that I’m also in, I just do my own ensemble track, because it doesn’t make sense doing the exact same thing as different positions, because you lose me as well. So you just make it more even. So I do that. But anything that I’m in that he’s in as the lead role that he dances and I don’t dance, then I have to learn that as well. But, you know, I guess, luckily I have few lines as an ensemble member. So, it’s mostly just dancing and all the blocking that I have to get used to first, and then I was learning all of Buddy’s lines along the way.
And he has about one hundred and sixty-five lines or something like that. So, he definitely has like… you know… a hefty portion of the lines. But… It was definitely stressful at the start. You get used to it along the way and then you get more clear as you go on and on with the rehearsals. I mean, it’s also difficult when you have walking changes, until the day you open. It’s really not set down at all, I just follow along and take note of what’s changed and what hasn’t changed.
Do you secretly hope that something happens to him so you can do the lead?
No, I don’t want anything at all to happen. I think that would be awful. We were supposed to have the week in Winnipeg… the understudy to go on, but unfortunately there were sound issues. They had to keep the leads in just to do their stuff.
But there’s been a couple of other cases where I did step in, altitude definitely takes a toll on people. We performed a couple nights ago at, I think, 5300 feet above sea level. So the air is very thin; it’s super, super hard to keep going and trying to get my breath. But, yeah, there’s been a couple times of “Oh God, I may not go on at all.” You just sort of prepare for those moments. But I haven’t had to yet. Thank God.
Queen is such a pretty iconic band. Were you ever a fan?
Oh, yeah. Growing up I think I started listening when I was about seven. My dad was really into classic rock. He loved Chicago, Rolling Stones, Beatles, usually liked everything and anything. And so I’d hop in his car and he’d put on A Night At The Opera and we’d be on our way to go golfing or something. Just rocking out to Bohemian Rhapsody… in his Thunderbird, just like a very vivid memory. I’ve loved Queen ever since I was a kid and I’ve got to say, at my first concert I get to see Paul McCartney, which Queen attributes basically everything to the Beatles and what they did. That’s pretty special having that.
Are there songs in the show that resonate with you?
Let’s see. Reminiscing wise, it would be Bohemian Rhapsody. I can’t tell anybody when that song is going to be though. That’s a secret. But, you’ll have to see the show to find out. They all have a special place. I love… Hammer To Fall, it’s a very good song. Yeah. That’s a hard question. That’s a really hard question. They all resonate with me somewhat. They all tell a different story, in that they all have… a lot have a different place in my own life.
You were born and raised here in Southwestern Ontario. When and how did theater become part of your life?
Being in Ontario is a very special thing for any theater people because we have Stratford. We have a lot of great theater, you know, like Shaw. We have Drayton, as well. But Stratford is like the pinnacle theater-going place for people all around the globe. So I was lucky enough when I was in Grade Eight, Grade Nine… I have an aunt who is a teacher and we got to see Romeo and Juliet in Grade Nine, and my aunt decided it was a good time to take me to see West Side Story in Stratford. So I went there with her and my grandma. And I remember sitting there and I saw Tony running and jumping up on a balcony, and he grabbed it and pulled himself up. I’m thinking, I want to do this. I want to do this for the rest of my life.
And his voice is amazing and Paul Nolan who played Tony. It was incredible. So from that moment, I was like I want to sing, act. Let’s get this going. So I went home. My mom found a vocal coach and called her up, started lessons. And I had to make the decision a couple years later to stop playing hockey and pursue theater. I joined Hairspray. Was my first theater live show in Windsor. Did that. And then that lead me to play Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar which was a delight. It was another role that Paul Nolan played in Stratford. It seems I’m following his footsteps, when it comes to that. But, yeah, that’s how it all began.