ABC airs documentary The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story on Monday (April 29). Lambert was the runner-up on American Idol in 2009, when he first shared the stage with Queen. He joined the band in 2012. Queen + Adam Lambert opened the Oscars in February, stirring up the crowd with “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”
Queen’s original singer, Freddie Mercury, died in 1991. The band has enjoyed a resurgence fueled primarily by the film Bohemian Rhapsody, with Rami Malek playing Mercury. Malek shares his thoughts in The Show Must Go On, as do Simon Cowell and Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor.
Show Must Go On executive producer Matt Lombardi spoke with Multichannel News about what the film offers that Queen fans won’t get elsewhere, and what Lambert brings to Queen that Mercury perhaps didn’t.
MCN: Why was ABC the right partner for this?
Matt Lombardi: Everybody wants a piece of Queen these days. This is a documentary that was in production, unbeknownst to us, long before Bohemian Rhapsody became the highest-grossing biopic of all time. As we all were watching the movie and Rami Malek ring up award after award, we were all thinking, “Wow, this band is hotter than it’s ever been.”
Between American Idol featuring prominently in the story and that it’s now an ABC show, coupled with the band’s show-stopping performance at the Oscars, it made perfect sense for ABC to be the home for this.
MCN: Did old-school Queen fans warmly embrace Adam or was there hesitancy?
ML: Any time you have a replacement singer in a band, the audience is going to be a little skeptical. What changed it for me, because I’m one of the old-school Queen fans, is seeing them perform. When we go see a band that’s been around this long — it’s like [ABC News contributor] Chris Connolly said, they’re wizards — they transport us into a different time. As long as you have somebody who can sing the songs and keep the music alive, I think you’re just grateful. But you’ve got to be able to pull it off, and Adam does more than that. He has such a voice and is such a performer. Given his history and personality, it’s a perfect fit. I think Queen fans feel satisfied that they’re getting their fix and at the same time seeing a fresh breath for these timeless songs.
MCN: What does Adam bring to Queen that maybe Freddie never did?
ML: He’s got a youthful exuberance. He’s got the benefit of his own experience. He’s got a similar story to Freddie’s but in some ways it’s different; he came of age in a different time. Adam has a very rich history in musical theater, performing since I think he was 6. And he’s American — he knows how to play to an American audience because he’s been onstage here since he was so young. On American Idol, from the get-go you’re on display for millions of people. You have to win the room from Day One. As daunting a task as [fronting Queen] is, Adam knew how to play to the room. Especially when more than half the room is probably skeptical.
MCN: What would Freddie think of Adam fronting Queen?
ML: The best source for that is the band. They say Freddie would marvel at Adam. Roger Taylor says there is no one who can out-sing Adam Lambert. That’s a pretty high compliment, because Freddie had a pretty damn good voice. They will tell you Freddie would love that Adam is fearless and just a bold, raw talent.
MCN: What will the viewer take away from this film?
ML: One thing we went to great lengths to do is remind everybody that Freddie Mercury was in his own way groundbreaking. In many ways, he set the stage for Adam Lambert’s success. Freddie did not have a family that was supportive of his sexuality; therefore he was closeted for most of his life. Adam had a very different experience, perhaps because Freddie helped pave the way. He had a supportive family, supportive fan base, and the industry has evolved in many ways. He was able to be a lot more comfortable in his own skin.
What’s cool about the film is you’ve got the history of the band — you learn a little bit more even than you do in Bohemian Rhapsody — and what Freddie was like and what he went through. Cut to all these years later and their new frontman owes a lot of his success to Freddie. It’s a tale of two incredible talents that both had the good fortune of fronting one of the great rock bands of all time.
MCN: Did you come away from the production with one Queen song stuck in your head?
ML: The one I keep singing is “Fat Bottomed Girls.” It’s the last song in the film. “Radio Ga Ga” is another. You couldn’t see Queen in a small club — part of the Queen experience is thousands and thousands of people. Freddie had the unique ability to get the entire room involved. Adam, because of the way he had to win people over week after week on American Idol, has the same innate ability to get everybody involved, and everybody singing. “Radio Ga Ga” is one of those songs where everybody is singing.