The bohemian rhapsody of Queen Symphonic

The air was full of excitement and curiosity in Tel Aviv last night as the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra took the stage with cast members of the West End's We Will Rock You musical.

From left - Jon Boydon, Emma Hatton, Jenna Lee-James and Peter Eldridge soak up the applause before the crowd, December 9, 2019 (photo credit: HANIN ALEXANDER)
From left - Jon Boydon, Emma Hatton, Jenna Lee-James and Peter Eldridge soak up the applause before the crowd, December 9, 2019
(photo credit: HANIN ALEXANDER)
It was no average night at the opera for concert-goers Monday night at Tel Aviv’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium. The air was full of excitement and curiosity as Queen Symphonic – a unique combination of rock vocalists from England and the Israel Symphony Orchestra from Ashdod – took the stage to tackle the ouvre of one of the most loved rock bands of the 20th century.
The orchestra began playing “Flash,” Queen’s title track for the 1980 movie Flash Gordon. The song’s high intensity and changing melody set the tone for the rest of the evening. The superhero theme then slowly faded into “Love Of My Life” from Queen’s 1975 album, A Night at the Opera.
The sense of anticipation was not lost on the singers who understand that, for most, a symphony orchestra isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when they think of rock and roll.
“People don’t quite know what to expect to begin with because rock music with a symphony orchestra, you never know how it’s going to go, but I think it works pretty well,” singer Peter Eldridge told The Jerusalem Post. Eldridge performed in the London West End production of We Will Rock You, a musical written by Ben Elton and Queen.
While adaptions of different genres and cross-overs seems to be a musical norm nowadays, Queen's extensive and unique catalogue of hits blend so well with the orchestral arrangements that there is a natural sound, as if these songs were always meant to be played with an orchestra. 
Eldridge was joined on stage by Jenna Lee-James, Jon Boydon, and Emma Hatton, all of whom were also part of the London-based We Will Rock You alumni, as well as renowned conductor Richard Sidwell, who led the orchestra throughout with aplomb.
Boydon was the first to sing, and from the first note of "Seven Seas of Rhye" to the last, he captivated the audience and made it feel like a true Queen concert.
Early renditions of "I Want To Break Free," "Under Pressure," and "Killer Queen," let the crowd know they were in for a hit-filled evening and the quick rotation of singers meant there was little time for chit-chat in between songs, except for the odd introduction. It was simply hit after hit.
As Boydon introduced the song, "Bicycle Race," he explained that it was not part of the band’s normal set, but rather a special request as the song was particularly popular in Israel. The band even brought out bicycle bells and took the classic instrumental break between verses, running around the stage ringing the bells along with the music as is done in the 1978 Queen classic.
When speaking to the Post, Eldridge echoed Boydon’s sentiment and said that Israel wasn’t the only country to make a special request. “Occasionally from town to town, country to country we get asked to put different songs in, so we’ll do [songs] like Bicycle Race for here,” he said. “In Japan we do a song called "Let Us Cling Together" because the chorus is sung in Japanese.”
The shorter, rockier pieces of the set list were interposed with the longer, more emotional songs of Queen that certainly benefited from having strings and brass sections accompanying. Songs such as "Innuendo," "The Show Must Go On," and "These Are the Days of Our Lives," sounded fuller for it, and if it's at all possible, somehow better.
Singer Jon Boydon takes a trip into the crowd during a rendition of "Don't Stop Me Now", December 9 2019 (Photo Credit: Hanin Alexander)Singer Jon Boydon takes a trip into the crowd during a rendition of "Don't Stop Me Now", December 9 2019 (Photo Credit: Hanin Alexander)
As the show moved into a second act the energy of the crowd seemed to pick up and when Boydon launched into a rendition of "Don't Stop Me Now" half of the song was spent running through the audience to cheers and clapping.
By the end of the night the audience was on its feet for classics such as "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are the Champions," and there was no one seated as the familiar stomp-stomp-clap "We Will Rock You" filled the auditorium.
“Queen lends itself to that sort of thing so well because Freddie [Mercury] was so theatrical anyway, and their music is so diverse, so many different styles they used,” said Eldridge.
Queen Symphonic close their brief stay in Israel with one more show tonight again at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, and, as the band themselves sang, "the show must go on."