Queen for a Day: Obsession into Performance Pt. 1

Barry Bowden for Miracle Productions LLP
Barry Bowden for Miracle Productions LLP

Queen + Adam Lambert welcomed the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders onto the stage during the band’s tour stop at Dallas’ American Airlines Center on July 23, 2019.

One hour before the show, Queen’s guitarist Brian May used social media to tease “a big surprise” for the show. Little did concertgoers know that when then the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers played one of their biggest hit songs, they would team-up with the DCC for a performance that brought down the house. But what seemed a last-minute surprise to fans of Queen and Adam Lambert was something that took months to come to fruition.

DCC director Kelli Finglass, in her own words, takes us behind-the-scenes of how the special night came together.

Kelli: “After seeing the movie Bohemian Rhapsody many times, I rediscovered Queen. Bohemian Rhapsody hit me like no other movie or musical ever has. I got obsessed with them; that’s what my family would say. When I realized Queen + Adam Lambert was touring and had a tour stop in Dallas, my first thought was, ‘They’ll be in Dallas when we’re filming our CMT show during DCC Training Camp and – maybe, just maybe – would they ever consider coming through our dance studio and making a guest appearance like we’ve done with many artists like Kacey Musgraves and Kellie Pickler and RaeLynn?’

We have this trend now of artists making visits at our rehearsals and helping us pick our team for our TV show. I thought, ‘That might be cool if we could get one of the members of Queen to come through while they’re promoting their tour!’

The next day, I woke up and was, ‘What am I thinking!!??!! No, we want to go to their show and see if there is any random chance we could talk them into letting us perform with them. That vision became an obsession of mine.

I didn’t have the connections to get to the right people to talk to Queen. In our DCC staff meeting one day I asked Haley Anderson if she knew – or could find – anyone who has anything to do with Queen: the promoter, the venue, the record label, the band itself. We obviously have worked with a lot of musicians. And Haley started dialing on her phone and found someone through her world of resources in the entertainment industry. She was able to set up a call with a member of the team for Queen. That phone call is where I pitched the idea of the DCC performing on stage with Queen during their Dallas concert.

The idea was met with enthusiasm, but it still wasn’t the band saying ‘yes’. We were still a few layers away. All of this initially took place in early spring. It took a while with people so busy and on-the-road, or back in England, or on different continents. There were a couple of missed opportunities before we finally connected.

Their representative said, ‘That sounds like fun, but let me talk to the band’. And then – here’s the killer – he said he would need to talk to Jim Beach. I said, ‘You are going to talk to Jim ‘Miami’ Beach?!?’ and he said, ‘Yes, of course!’

I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is real!’ If you saw the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, you know the importance of Jim Beach and how Freddie Mercury bestowed the nickname ‘Miami’ on him.

So now I know this is a real possibility. He called back and said, ‘They’re interested, but the band hasn’t decided what songs they’re going to play on tour, so you have to pick the right time to ask them’. He wanted to wait until they were back in London. Then they were in California. Then we got a call and he said, ‘They’re interested. Roger thinks y’all should dance to Fat Bottomed Girls’.

I said, ‘Roger, as in (drummer) Roger Taylor?!?!’ I kind of fan-girled a little bit.

And then it started getting serious.

They put us on the phone with their tour director and we were talking songs, we were talking stages and staircases and backstage rehearsal rooms. That’s when I knew this was real.

And our crazy summer schedule got even busier. We are in the middle of our DCC Training Camp. We had a little over a week at that point to figure it out. We had no video because Queen hadn’t even started their tour. They had an opening night in Vancouver. They sent us a wide shot of Fat Bottom Girls so we could see the current concert-version of that song. They sent us stage renderings. We started studying the amount of space and figuring how many girls we could fit on the stage.

Fast forward to the day of our performance with Queen + Adam Lambert: we’re on our way to the venue, six hours before the concert begins, and we still haven’t stepped foot on the stage. We’re going to see if we can pull this off.

We have all 27 returning DCC veterans taking part in the performance. I think one of the best moments of this whole adventure was when we revealed it to the squad and told them they’re going to perform with Queen and Adam Lambert. There wee squeals, even tears of joy.

They knew all about Queen well before this concert. I said earlier I was obsessed with the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. I screened the movie for the whole squad. It was the first time I ever had a movie night as a team. I did it at Studio Movie Grill. And I am always giving them so many references in rehearsals about musicality and about Freddie Mercury and stage presence and song writing and tempo and being authentic. There are so many lessons from Queen that I’ve applied. That’s what makes this really special for me.

This is absolutely a top moment for me personally and within my career.

Since this was a fantasy conversation and very fluid, we didn’t even know if we’d have the opportunity. You don’t just jump into a world renowned rock band’s tour and expect them to say ‘yes’. They have 32 songs in their set list.

We’ve been high octane in our rehearsals with our Training Camp and CMT television show, so Judy (Trammell, DCC choreographer) had a 30-minute gap one night last week when the TV crew was taking a short break. We were able to introduce the song and some placeholders to the girls, but we still hadn’t even seen the stage. So we didn’t know what our space was.

The good news is that Queen’s tour director has been wonderful and she gave us a rehearsal alone on the stage at 3pm and an hour with the band. Honestly, at this level, that’s unheard of. We’ve had to go into so many previous shows blindly.

But for this special night, all the stars have aligned. They are heroes to me. This has been an experience that I and everyone involved with the DCC will treasure forever.”

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