A Queen-Inspired Show Debuts in San Diego
San Diego native and America’s Got Talent finalist Brian Justin Crum stars in Somebody to Love at Music Box on February 14
Brian Justin Crum, star of Somebody to Love
Brian Justin Crum’s career has taken off, with a résumé bulleted in appearances on Broadway and America’s Got Talent. But that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten his hometown roots. For one night only—Valentine’s Day!—he’s bringing his powerhouse vocals to the Music Box stage as the star of Somebody to Love, a Queen-inspired ballet and rock concert. Ahead of the performance, we caught up with him to chat about his path to stardom and how the iconic rock band has influenced him, plus a little shout-out to the somebody he loves.
Shawndiz Hazegh: What’s the romance behind a Queen-influenced show? After all, this one plays on Valentine’s Day.
Brian Justin Crum: Queen’s catalogue of music really speaks for itself. Freddie Mercury was such an icon. His music has an amazing range: falling in love, being in love, then falling out of love and losing love. So it’s important for us doing this show that we highlight all aspects of love—that love transcends race and gender, and it has its ups and downs. It’s valuable to share an authentic view on what love is. I think Queen’s music really takes you on that journey, and ballet is just the perfect avenue of dance to express that.
SH: Are you a fan of Valentine’s Day yourself?
BJC: I’ve never really been huge on Valentine’s Day. But this is a whole new year for me. I’m very much in love, and I’m doing what I love. It’s going to be awesome to have my boyfriend there at the show.
SH: What led you to performing arts—singing, acting, and dancing.
BJC: I started when I was five years old, performing in musical theater. My mom was a single mom; she had to do something with us after school so she could work, and there was a theater program at our school. Then I did my first Broadway show when I was 18. I did a ton of shows on Broadway and traveled with musicals, so that’s where I got my formal training as far as the arts go. Singing is where my heart is, but I love acting and dancing. I’m excited to get to fuse all of those things together.
SH: And now I hear you’re also dropping an EP.
BJC: The first single will be out this month! I have a deep love for pop music, and I’m just excited to fuse my rock ’n’ roll background and voice with some really great pop production. For me it’s always about the melodies and the lyrics; I want a song to play just as well whether it has a full band behind it or just a piano. That’s always my focus, and I think this collection of songs coming out will do that.
SH: Queen seems to have influenced your career, too—you starred in We Will Rock You in 2013. Why come back for another round?
BJC: Queen has always been a major staple for me. My dad was a big Queen fan. I’ve always loved Freddie Mercury’s voice and the band. When I first did We Will Rock You and I got to sing all of his music, I really fell in love with it in a different way. It suits my voice so well; I feel so at home singing it. When they approached me to do this show, I thought this was such a perfect way to take my love of Queen and do it my way. We Will Rock You is a silly show with a silly storyline, and it was always a struggle for me to get into that. Somebody to Love is just about the music and the dance, about singing the great songs. We’re not trying to force any storyline.
SH: What Queen song is most meaningful to you?
BJC: My favorite is “Somebody to Love.” It’s so iconic. I used it for my America’s Got Talent audition [in 2016]. It’s such an incredibly smart song that is so painful to listen to. It’s heart wrenching. Especially with LGBTQ people, we grow up thinking we’re not deserving of love or that we’ll never find love. When you know a bit of the backstory of Freddie’s life and what he was going through, you can take that song into a different point of view and understand him and the song a bit deeper.
SH: You’ve done some great things speaking up against bullying and supporting the LGBTQ community. Tell me a little more about that.
BJC: When you have a platform, it’s your job to give a voice to the voiceless. I grew up as an overweight effeminate boy, and I was definitely a target for bullying. I want to let people know they’re not alone—I’ve been through it, and I’m on the other side of it. I’m so happy and grateful I went though what I went through, because it made me who I am today. I think that only when you go through adversity and you come through on the other side can you really have true empathy for other people. That’s what I hope to spread as a message of love and a message of “It gets better.”