Warren Vernon-Driscoll will rock you at the ‘Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic’ tribute show

Warren Vernon-Driscoll in ‘Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic’. Picture: Lance Peterson.

Warren Vernon-Driscoll in ‘Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic’. Picture: Lance Peterson.

Published Apr 2, 2024


FANS of rock can look forward to Showtime Australia’s tribute show, “Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic”, at Joburg Theatre from April 5 to 14.

Warren Vernon-Driscoll helms the show on lead vocals, guitar and piano live on stage, with Rusty Red taking on the famous guitar riffs of Brian May.

They are joined by Australian musicians Ben Harper on drums and Zac Coombs on bass guitar.

The Rock Symphony Orchestra, with renowned Italian conductor Roberto Molinelli, who has collaborated with Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, the Russian Philharmonic and South Africa’s own Belinda Davids, will be performing for the first time in South Africa.

In a recent chat with Vernon-Driscoll, he said he landed the gig by accident.

“I went to one of Showtime Australia’s shows. A friend invited me and I think I was his third choice. So I went to this show. I was looking for a job at the time. I used to busk at markets with my guitar and sing wherever I could for money.

“I just asked for an email address to audition. I wanted a backing singer job essentially. I just wanted to be a part of something. I met with Johnny (Van Grinsven) and our producer on a Monday and by Friday we were making plans for the show. It just happened so quickly.

Warren Vernon-Driscoll performing ‘Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic’. Picture: Lance Peterson.

“But they put me through a rigorous process before they were willing to commit to doing something. It all worked out great in the end.”

Vernon-Driscoll was at the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir for five years before moving to Kearsney to finish schooling. After that, he studied classical music at UCT.

However, he gravitated towards rock, especially when he played gigs in Cape Town with a band he started in high school.

He said: “I ended up falling into the pop-rock industry instead of classical music because I was having more fun.”

And this gig played to his strength.

“I’ve been a massive Queen fan from a very young age. I would say maybe at about 12 – 13. So I’ve always admired Freddie Mercury’s singing. So it is quite an honour to have a career singing my hero’s music,” he said.

He performed a similar show in Joburg.

He said: “When we first started during one of my trial periods, we did a similar show in Joburg but it wasn’t a big one and it wasn’t promoted intensely.

“We’ve been touring the world for about four years, we’ve done New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. I’m going to Canada shortly after the Joburg run for the third time in a row and we’ve got 40 shows there.”

For those wondering what to expect from the show, Vernon-Driscoll said: “First of all, the show isn’t a musical. There is no narrative. This is a straight-up rock concert. We want you to close your eyes and feel like you are watching Queen Live.

“We’ve got all the outlandish costumes that Freddie wore, all the intense lighting rigs and Rusty, who plays Brian May, uses a replica of his guitar.

“I even wear the same boxing boots that Freddie wore on stage and those were a mission to source. We’ve taken that much detail to recreate the Queen experience.”

He said: “Maestro Roberto Molinelli is incredible. I’ve had the privilege of working with him before but this is the first time that we incorporating a Rock Symphony Orchestra with the band.

“This promises to be bigger and it is something that I am really excited about.”

He said: “We’ve been touring for about four years. The band is really tight. The orchestra has been practising on their own. As soon as I get to Joburg early next week, that’s when we put everything together and start polishing what everyone has been working on for the past couple of months.”

Fans can look forward to a set list that includes “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions”, “Radio Ga Ga”, “I Want to Break Free”, “Somebody to Love”, “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Another One Bites the Dust”, “A Kind of Magic”, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and more.

Before he dashed off, he said: “It’s a rock ‘n roll gig. We don’t expect you to be sitting. We want people to be singing louder than the band, creating the rock experience with us and having a party.”

Where: Joburg Theatre.

When: April 5 –14. Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and on Sundays at 2pm.

Cost: Ticket prices from R180 – R390. Booking through Webtickets and Joburg Theatre Box Office. Groups of 10 or more receive 10% off and groups of 20 or more get 20% off

Currently showing

“The Cry of Winnie Mandela”

Based on the popular novel by poet, novelist, and essayist, Njabulo Ndebele.

Adapted by Alex Burger, the stage production of “The Cry of Winnie Mandela” will take audiences on a theatrical journey.

This poignant play is crafted by an exceptional creative team led by director MoMo Matsunyane, the current Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Theatre.

She is working alongside costume designer, Onthatile Matshidiso, sound and videographer, Vangile Z Mpumlwana, and award-winning set and lighting designer, Wilhelm Disbergen.

The action in the play centres on the stories of Ndebele’s imagined four women.

Between intense emotional moments and cleverly injected humour, the dynamic theatrical adaptation weaves together the characters’ private accounts, exposing the shadows, isolation, and complexities of their evocative experiences.

A series of intimate and powerful rituals unfold as they share the profound impact of this period of their lives, delving into the depths of their longing and uncertainty as they forge their stories to that of the life and times of Winnie Mandela.

The cast includes Rami Chuene as Mannete, Ayanda Sibisi as Delisiwe, Nambitha Mpumlwana as Winnie Mandela, Siyasanga Papu as Marara, Pulane Rampoana as Mamello and Les Nkosi as Prof Ndebele.

Where: Barney Simon Theatre, Market Theatre.

When: Plays until April 21, at 7pm.

Cost: Ticket prices vary from R100 to R200. Booking through Webtickets. For reduced-price block bookings (of 10 or more) and school groups, contact [email protected] or at 083 246 4950.

“My Son Pinocchio Jr”

If you are looking for something to keep the little ones entertained, then look no further than this classic Disney story at the Peoples Theatre.

“My Son Pinocchio Jr” is told from the perspective of toymaker Gepetto, who embarks on an adventurous journey to discover the true meaning of family.

The production is underpinned by songs that the audience can sing along with, like “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “I’ve Got No Strings”.

The journey of Pinocchio from an awkward wooden puppet to a real boy, thanks to the compassionate Blue Fairy, is laden with heart-warming moments and fun exploits.

The play is produced and directed by Jill Girard and Keith Smith, with costumes by Luciano Zuppa, choreography by Sandy Richardson Dyer, musical direction by Coenraad Raal and set design by Grant Knottenbelt.

The cast includes Caiden Distiller, Kiran Moodley and Ntsako Mtombeni alternating as Pinocchio, Zuppa as Gepetto, Nonhlanhla “Noni” Mkhonto as The Blue Fairy, Gamelihle Mbovana as Mr Stromboli, Raymond Skinner as Cat and Lesedi Mphshe as Fox.

Where: Peoples Theatre.

When: Until April 21. Shows play at 9am and 11am on Tuesday to Friday and at 10.30am and 2.30pm on weekends and public holidays.

Cost: Ticket prices from R140 to R165. For school group rates, contact the theatre directly. Book online at www.joburgtheatre.com or via Webtickets.