Joseph Clark bringing Mercury’s magic to Durban

Joseph Clark will perform Music of Queen at the Playhouse Opera Theatre in Durban next month. | BART VAN DER PUTTEN

Joseph Clark will perform Music of Queen at the Playhouse Opera Theatre in Durban next month. | BART VAN DER PUTTEN

Published May 5, 2024


Durban — It’s the kind of magic few performers can conjure up, but the multi-talented Joseph Clark is widely regarded as a champion at belting out the sorcery of British rock band Queen.

Clark is also admired for replicating the extraordinary vocal range of Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury.

Durban music lovers will get a chance to experience Clark’s talent at the Playhouse Opera Theatre during his Music of Queen shows on May 17 and 18.

Celebrating Queen has been most satisfying for Joseph Clark in his lengthy showbiz career. Picture: Bart van der Putten

The finale to Clark’s repertoire will be his new Mercury-tribute song: Today, Tomorrow, Forever with lyrics written by UK songwriter David Soames.

Clark’s rendition of In My Defence – written for Mercury by Soames – during a performance in the Netherlands, rocked Soames, who was in the audience.

Soames was moved afterwards to hand Joseph a sheet of paper with the words: “Apart from Freddie, you are the only other singer to bring justice to the song. Take this, it’s a new song. You have earned it. It is a song about Freddie. Write the music and record it. It’s yours.”

One of Clark’s stand-out performances of the group’s music was in 2011 as the lead vocalist in The Queen Experience, in front of 30 000 fans at the GelreDome Stadium in Arnhem, Netherlands.

Clark has also done “tribute” shows for other artists including Elton John, Billy Joel and Sting, at the Playhouse.

“I enjoy singing good songs whether it’s in a small venue with a guitar and piano or with a full symphony orchestra,” said Clark.

“The music of Queen has been the most consistent and creatively satisfying project I have done over many years.

“It goes without saying that a return to the Playhouse’s Opera stage where my journey with Queen’s music started will be a very important moment for me, personally and professionally.”

Joseph Clark on stage in The Netherlands. Picture: Bart van der Putten

He said he appreciated their music because the band members (John Deacon, Bryan May, Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor) “created a body of music that has continued to captivate and entertain audiences for half a century”.

“It’s extraordinary. No other rock group (including the Beatles) has managed to achieve this. So, for me it’s about being able to pay tribute to some of the greatest music of the 20th century.”

About singing like Mercury with aplomb, Clark said it was “serendipity”.

“It just happened that when we started initial rehearsals for a Queen At The Opera event, everyone said I sounded just like Freddie Mercury.

“I have never tried to copy him in all these years of performing this superlative music, except through the realisation that the only way to be able to sing and perform these songs is to approach them the way Freddie did – with physicality and passion.

“And that is what I have ventured to do with every performance.”

Clark, who was born in Amarillo, Texas, USA, was caught up with showbiz from a young age.

His mother had her own radio show in Amarillo and at age 5, he was doing Christmas carols, and sang live with his brothers as a teenager.

He took up ballet at the age of 18 in 1973, and moved to New York three years later to further his dancing skills.

His ballet career, from 1977 to 1994, saw him performing across the US before he joined the Pretoria-based PACT (Performing Arts Companies) Ballet in 1984.

Clark moved to Durban in 1987 and took up residence with the Playhouse Company where he was involved in productions with the Napac Dance Company, the Napac Musicals Department and the Loft Drama Company.

Joseph Clark hits the high notes.

“My singing career started long before my Durban residence, and my intimate relationship with the music of Queen began at the Playhouse.”

Clarke has performed around the world, has had roles as an actor, also plays the piano, harmonica and a bit of guitar.

He played the guitar in the role of Buddy Holly in the musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, in May 1995 opposite his wife Elzette Maarschalk, who played Buddy’s wife.

Given his versatility on stage, Clark has collected several South African national theatre awards.

His best moments as a performer included being chosen to sing at Nelson Mandela’s 85th birthday celebrations in front of 2000-plus international heads of state and celebrities (including former US president and first lady Bill and Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Robert de Niro, Naomi Campbell and John Cusack).

He also opened the first World Aids Concert Day in 2001 along with the late R&B singer, TK.

Clark is a firm believer in the “show must go on” mantra, even if he has on-stage snarl-ups: “During a performance at the Playhouse, I lost my footing and fell into the audience while singing Another One Bites The Dust.”

On what else he hopes to achieve, Clark said: “Who knows what the future holds? All of my aspirations have basically been fulfilled.”

Music of Queen will be on at The Playhouse Opera Theatre at 7pm on Friday, May 17, and at 2.30pm on Saturday May 18. Tickets are R250 through Webtickets

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