Terry Barber, international opera singer and Grammy nominee who performs the music of Freddie Mercury in the upcoming performance, Mercury, coming to Houston’s Arena Theatre for one show only on May 10, exudes enthusiasm and knowledge of his subject.
His research took him through five biographies in the attempt to fully understand the complex personality and career of the lead singer of the rock band, Queen. In this tribute to the life and music of Freddie Mercury, Barber admits that he is not trying to impersonate Mercury, rather he wants the audience to understand and appreciate the artistic talents of a man who tragically died of AIDS at the same age Barber is now.
Barber discovered some similarity between himself and the character. He freely admits that he and Mercury share a work ethic of hammering things out until they are right and having a true vision of how performances should look and sound. Both were at times hard on themselves, while being forgiving of those around them, often to a fault.
Both are also gay, but Barber acknowledges Mercury dealt with his homosexuality in a very different time and place.
Of Persian descent, Mercury was sent to an all-boys school at age eight already feeling his difference. Distanced from family, it seems probable that his relationship with Mary Austin later in life was a longing for a mother figure, and not from a sexual place that neither of them desired.
Most striking to Barber was understanding that he and Mercury both put their artistry and desire to be respected as musicians, first and foremost. Classically trained, Barber had to adjust to rock star-type vocals and to the flamboyancy and bravado that he needed as an actor to identify with the Mercury material. He believes that classical training lays the foundation and teaches the techniques, while giving the tools, for any sort of performing. He has used that training in a wide variety of ways including performing opera (at the Metropolitan Opera starring Placido Domingo) and new age (“Adiemus” at the London Philharmonic), musical theater in his own worldwide tours, and in recordings alongside such notables as Madonna, Chaka Khan, and Cyndi Lauper.
Barber is no stranger to adapting. His multi-faceted career in opera, musical theatre and personal concerts, plus his work as a recording artist, will see him this year in over 60 performances in the U.S. and Canada. In addition to his solo concert, “Around the World in 80 Minutes”, Barber’s appearances will be performed with anything from single piano accompaniment to 14 singing actors and musicians, keeping him busy through 2020. This schedule has kept him from an opportunity to audition for the lead in Phantom of the Opera and puts on hold his pursuit of dream roles in Hamilton and Les Miserables (in which he has performed the lead role of Jean Valjean).
He often wears many hats including producer and artistic director. He also wrote the Mercury script, which relies on the entire band delivering many of Freddie’s colorful quotes.
Barber is quick to mention the other talent in the production of Mercury including Grace Field, who also tours with Bravo Amici and shares an operatic duet in the show. Don Carr, lead guitarist toured with The Oak Ridge Boys. Bob “Bones” Moltedo “plays flawless bass”, explains Terry, and Jonathan Cummings, formerly a singer with Barry Manilow and the creator of The Troubador’s Journey, plays drums. The tour is in its infancy, but is scheduled for performances in Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma, Florida and California, after Texas.
The timing of Mercury could not be better. The movie Bohemian Rhapsody, for which Barber has strong feelings, won this year’s Academy Award and put Freddie Mercury and Queen back in the spotlight. Barber feels as if somewhere along the way the movie lost its focus, waffling between the story of Mercury’s life and the cinematic epic of a Queen concert. He notes that a change in director during the making of the movie might have created the confusion. He does credit actor Rami Malik for an incredible performance, nailing Mercury’s flamboyant behavior and stage presence.
Currently residing in the Midwest with his husband and their twin children (a boy and a girl), Barber has plans to relocate to New York where he has lived before. Much of his work involves partnering with talent there as well as those in Los Angeles and Nashville. Meanwhile, he will visit Texas with Mercury where he has toured before as part of an all-male singing group called Chanticleer and now brings his first experience with rock opera to a Houston audience with musical expertise and understanding of an iconic performer, Freddie Mercury.
Mercury plays one show only, Friday, May 10, at Houston’s Arena Theatre (7326 Southwest Freeway). Rich’s Nightclub (2401 San Jacinto) hosts an after-performance party with no cover charge for Mercury ticket holders. Tickets are available at ArenaTheatre.com, Ticketmaster.com or 713-772-5900. Use the code RICHS and a portion of tickets sales will benefit non-profit Montrose Center. For more information, check out MercuryWorldTour.com and TerryBarber.com.