WE WILL ROCK YOU (MELBOURNE)
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Michael Falzon
(Galileo)

 

 

 

PART 2

21 July 2003

Michael had prepared well for his final audition in front of Roger Taylor, Ben Elton and Brian May. He knew the four scenes he had been given and he had thoroughly prepared his three songs. What he wasn’t prepared for were the nerves that beset him when he had to meet the creators of We Will Rock You, and perform for them – all in the same half-hour!!

“I was nervous when I walked in, but everyone did everything they could to make me feel comfortable. It was such a privilege to sing Who Wants To Live Forever for the man who wrote the song, and I was nervous. Brian asked me to consider some things while I was singing it… what it was I was singing, to bring it right back, not to try and push, to be as soft… act as much as I wanted, that I didn’t have to fill the room with the sound I was making.”
Thinking about what he was singing allowed Michael to give Brian what he thought was wanted, to internalize what he was doing and feel what the song was about. However, the turning point in conquering his nerves didn’t come until he was well into the song.

“They were filming it on a little digital camera. About halfway through, Brian looked up from the camera and gave me a double thumbs-up. At that point I could feel myself relax… I relaxed incredibly!! And at that point I started to give them a little bit more of what they wanted.”
Continuing with the other songs he had prepared, (I Want To Break Free and We Are The Champions), Michael was asked to run through them all a couple of times before doing his scene work with Ben. Working with Ben, Michael could feel his nerves retreating further. “Ben was very supportive and complimentary of some of the choices I was making. That helps a lot in an audition situation – when you know you are going the right way.”
Seeing everyone immediately talking when he left the room, Michael wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing. Then the casting agent came out, gave him a big hug and told him it was the best audition he had ever done. Feeling the effects of the adrenaline, Michael told her he was off to have a drink! She told him to have a few and that they would talk to him very soon.

Michael laughs as he remembers that conversation, “You never know if it’s, we’ll talk to you very soon and tell you you were crap, or tell you you got the job!!”

“Talk to you very soon”, turned out to be a week or so later. While Michael and his partner were walking down Oxford Street in Sydney, she mentioned to him she thought he would hear that afternoon and she was right. Just after four, Michael’s phone rang. The screen display told him it was his agent. Taking the call, he heard her say “Hello Michael,” in a somber tone with a downward inflection.

“I thought ’Oh Jesus, that doesn’t sound good!’ I actually said, ‘Oh, that doesn’t sound too good.’ And she said, ‘You’ve… Got… The…. Role!!!’ After cursing her for having a joke at my expense, I had rare moment, I literally had to sit down.”

Luckily Michael was in a cake shop at the time, and there were tables and chairs available. He sat there for a few minutes, relief and elation washing over him. Then he was told he couldn’t say anything to anyone. Very tongue in cheek, Michael says, “so I almost didn’t!!”
When he stopped laughing, Michael told me he did tell his family, his business partners and his partner but that was essentially it. He couldn’t tell anyone else for a long time.

Not letting the embargo spoil the sense of occasion, Michael immediately went out and bought a bottle of Bollinger to celebrate with, turning it into an extremely delightful afternoon…

Talking about the character he is now exploring in rehearsals, Michael tells me, “Galileo is wonderful, I love the character. It’s nice to have a hero who doesn’t know he’s a hero. He is so on the outer and it’s only during the last parts of the show that he really comes into his own. There is a bit of the stutterer and quirkiness about him, that is something that is obviously developing… that and trying to find the right contrast with Scaramouche.”

As he tries to makes sense of the complexities of Galileo’s character and a lot of the dialogue – how Galileo keeps bursting into little phrases of songs and the associated humour, Michael tries to keep in mind who wrote the script.

“I keep reminding myself Ben Elton wrote this, I try to remember Ben’s stand-up performances, and when I’ve seen his writing in Maybe Baby and Black Adder, I think I’ve got to come back to that. When I do, it all starts to make sense. Everything leaps off the page and suddenly becomes clear.”

The role Michael has is a big, demanding one. His initial impression after the first two week of rehearsal was that after the pace Ben Elton and Mike Dixon had set during that time, the eight shows a week were going to be a breeze!!

“We just fell on the floor at the end of it!! We did so much. But having run Act 1 now, it’s finding its feet. Vocally, I have to spend the next few weeks, finding that rhythm, finding that pace in the show where I can be comfortable and still give it everything I’ve got, but not push it to the point where at the end of a show, I’ve got nothing left for tomorrow. That’s what the whole rehearsal process is, not only finding the character and the humour but finding the rhythm and pace.”

I asked Michael how he thought he would cope with the inevitable comparisons that will be made between him, as the male lead of the show, and the great Freddie Mercury. Michael’s sense of balance and reason is clearly demonstrated with his answer.

“Comparisons are always going to be made. They will be made between this production and the London production. I will be compared to both Freddie and to Tony Vincent. In any role, if it’s been done before, there will be comparisons made. I’m hoping people will enjoy what it is I can bring to the songs. For me, I have conviction in what I am doing. I hope that people can see I’m not Freddie Mercury… I can’t be Freddie Mercury… but I will do the best I can, and hopefully people will say, well, Queen picked this guy to do it, hopefully he’s doing something right.”

Laughing, Michael continues, “So I’m aware of what could happen. Whether or not I’m prepared for what those criticisms might be… I won’t know until they come!!”

Ultimately Michael doesn’t think the comparisons will continue once people see the show and they realize it is not biographical. “When I first tell people about being in the show, I have them say to me, ‘yes, you even look a little like Freddie.’ I tell them it’s not about him and when I tell them the story… that Ben Elton has written this story taking the piss… they actually become quite enthusiastic about it.”

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Next time Michael’s conversation will be a little muffled, as he will be speaking with a mouthful of mashed potatoes… wait and see!! He will tell us how rehearsals are progressing, how much work he has to do on his dancing (!!) and why he hates Melbourne’s weather.

Bushfire Blonde


 

PART 1

29 June 2003

Michael Falzon is a marvelous combination. Someone who thinks seriously about life and his art, but can also appreciate the humour in it. He has a charismatic sparkle, a vitality and light-heartedness, balanced by his reasoning and perception. And when he sings – he takes your breath away.

With a chuckle, Michael tells me he is the black sheep of six kids – the only entertainer! His Mum and Dad sent him to a singing coach when he was ten because he was always singing around the house. He did well there, only taking time out when his voice broke.

When he was twelve, he moved with his family from Sydney to Brisbane and attended Kelvin Grove High School – at the time one of the best schools for drama.

The first professional show Michael saw was Les Miserables.
“That’s when I went, ‘WOW, yeah, I really wouldn’t mind doing that… Never mind I’ve never been cast in Les Mis!! But I got close to it a couple of times, a little while ago.”

Leaving school, Michael got a ”real job” and was accepted into University to study Psychology with an English major, but he deferred that. As he laughingly tells me, “twelve years later it is still deferred!”

However he still maintains an interest in psychology and tries to keep up with current theories.

At eighteen Michael was singing part-time, working through the day and wondering what he was going to do with his life.

“I started to get more work in the entertainment industry – a lot of corporate work. I started thinking, ‘I’ve got to bite the bullet and make some decisions.’ So I gave up day-time work and focused more on the singing, and I was invited to audition for Pirates of Penzance with Simon Gallagher etc and I haven’t stopped since!”

For the next six years Michael jumped from show to show, moving all around. Eventually he started to miss his family and friends and got sick of the touring. He also was burdened with being typecast because of his particular look.
“Producers would always snap me up to understudy the lead... always the bridesmaid, never the bride - as it were. So that started to get me down a little bit. And I bit the bullet again and made a life decision. I decided - that’s it, no more covering for me.

It took a while for me to be able to walk into an audition and be looked at in a supporting role capacity rather than always being put in the cover box. Finally I was getting seen for what I wanted to be seen for. Unfortunately those shows, if an offer came through, didn’t go ahead or there just wasn’t enough to go around.
So I started a production company and produced an act which is still running exceptionally well [The Rat Pack’s Back], but obviously I can’t be involved with it as much as I’d like at the moment. We were doing gigs about every week, either concerts or corporate, all over Australia, overseas, everywhere. That was my bread and butter and it’s really nice to know I’m leaving it in safe hands and that it’s still being successful. So it’s a shame in one respect to be leaving that, but to come to a production like We Will Rock You is terrific.”

One of Michael’s long time friends is Amanda Harrison. [Oz in the Australian production and previously in the London cast.] She encouraged him to audition for the part of Galileo having seen similarities between his and Tony Vincent’s style. [Galileo in the London cast.]

“When she was cast in the show over there, she rang me during rehearsals and said, ’God this guy reminds me of you!’ and I went, ‘Oh really’, and she said, ‘Yeah, if he doesn’t stick around, you should really - if you’re still looking at maybe coming to London – you’ve got to come along and see the show and audition for it.’

When, at the end of last year, I heard officially the show was coming here, she was great and she dropped the word to the right people so that when I walked into the audition – finally - Tony Edge and Mike both went, ‘Oh right, you’re Amanda’s friend.’ So it made me feel a little bit comfortable right off the bat. She even sent me the cast recording from London and was really helpful with my understanding of the show and my appreciation of what it was about before I walked in the door here.”

Dryly, Michael says, “I hope I’ve thanked her enough for that!” Then he laughs uproariously as he reveals that Amanda is relieved he is as good as she remembered…

“The other day we were in rehearsals doing an run through of Act 1 and she came up and said, ‘Great job, I’m glad you were good. I told them you were…. And I hadn’t hear you sing for years!!’ “

Michael told me why, apart from Amanda’s recommendation, he wanted this role so much.

“I have always loved this music. It’s some of the most uplifting, real, raw, fantastic rock’n’roll music. As a kid, growing up, I came at it in the early 80’s. I got introduced to it through Highlander. I mean every teenager loved that film and listening to It’s A Kind Of Magic…[Michael sings a few bars for me...*sigh*…] and Who Wants To Live Forever, which is one of my favourite songs of all time – it’s a magnificent song - well, then I went out and bought the Greatest Hits album and got introduced to all the earlier stuff, Bo Rhap etc.

So the difference with this show and role, besides that obviously the role itself is a great one, is that I personally love the music, which is difficult to say going into a show like Hello Dolly. Something like this is music I can really relate to. And the great thing was, with this particular show, I could feel like I actually had a chance in Australia of getting a role like this without a huge profile… Queen is the name, Queen is the star. That’s why I worked really hard and tried to do everything I could to get it.”

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Next Michael tells us about his final audition and what happened when he heard he had won the role; how he identifies with his character; what he thinks about the inevitable comparisons with Freddie Mercury; and how valuable he has found Ben Elton’s directorial input.

'Bushfire Blonde'