Adam Lambert on his new musical, Halloween solo tour and singing with Queen: ‘I feel settled and comfortable’
The charismatic vocal star and ‘American Idol’ alum is embarking on his Halloween-themed ‘The Witch Hunt’ tour
Adam Lambert is coming full circle in three very different ways. Together, they tie his past, present and future together with a flair perfectly suited for this charismatic “American Idol” alum and lead singer in Queen.
Lambert is now at work on his first musical. It will follow a concept album, featuring songs from the musical, targeted for a late 2023 or early 2024 release.
In turn, the musical and album have been preceded by last Friday’s release of his version of “Mad About the Boy,” which is being used as the theme song for the 2023 film documentary “Mad About The Boy — The Noël Coward Story.”
“I’m very excited,” said Lambert, who brings his Halloween-themed “The Witch Hunt” concert tour to San Diego’s Balboa Theatre Oct. 23. He cites Coward — best known for writing such enduring theater classics as “Blithe Spirit” and “Private Lives” — as a longtime favorite.
“ ‘Mad About the Boy’ is an old standard, a sort of a torch song, that Noël wrote (in 1932) about a man but couldn’t sing because it was too taboo at the time,” Lambert noted during a phone interview last week from London.
“Multiple female vocalists have covered it. But for this bio-documentary, they wanted to remake the song and thought it would be cool to have a guy do it. I worked with (producers) Amanda Ghost and Johnny Coffer on my version.”
Coward died in 1973. His aesthetic sensibilities as a gay man and multifaceted artist resonate strongly with Lambert, who was just 9 when he made his 1991 stage debut at San Diego’s Lyceum Theater in a Metropolitan Educational Theater production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Lambert, who grew up in Rancho Peñasquitos, spent the next decade here performing in such musicals as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Grease” before moving to Los Angeles. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated his efforts on what will be his first musical.
“My album ‘Velvet’ was released two weeks before everything got shutdown and canceled,” Lambert said.
“Once I got over that, I wanted to be creative and do something. I had pitched this idea for a musical before the pandemic started, based on a real story about a real guy, and I started doing Zoom songwriting sessions for it during the pandemic.
“Some musicals have one composer and one lyricist. But because of my experience in the music world and the theater world, we’ve chosen to work with a group of composers, lyricists and producers, almost approaching it like a pop album.
“I’ve met a lot of great collaborators, and I’m in every session, guiding it. We’re trucking along, but it’s a slower process than putting together a pop album. I have the songs written and now we’re figuring out what the script might look like.”
Is the subject of Lambert’s musical still alive?
“It is a living person. And I apologize for not being able to give you the full pitch,” replied the singer, who has long cited the late David Bowie as a major inspiration.
“It’s a new type of project for me. It’s writing music about somebody else, how they felt and about what they were going through. Writing songs from that perspective is really cool. And I have some parallels in my life and can relate to that person.”
Lambert has to keep details about his debut musical close to his vest until it is officially announced. But he disclosed one key detail that strongly suggests what his musical might sound like, stylistically speaking.
“It’s a period piece set and in the 1970s, which is my favorite decade,” he said.
“I love the music from the ‘70s. There’s something about all those genres from that decade, so much great music that was golden. You had all the classic and progressive rock, and funk and soul, and disco, which was amazing.”
His upcoming musical is a full-circle moment for Lambert, who was an unabashed theater kid growing up in San Diego before he turned pro.
At 22, he spent six months in Germany performing in a bilingual production of “Hair.” This was followed by his being an ensemble member in the first U.S. national tour of “Wicked.”
“Absolutely full circle,” he said. “And it’s one of the things I’m so excited about. Because I do kind of miss that world. And to be able to come back into it with your own creation feels like the best of both worlds. When I was in theater before, I was a performer doing other people’s works. To be able to do my own musical now is a dream come true.”
We will rock you!
Lambert, 40, spent a good chunk of this summer touring with Queen. He joined the legendary English rock band in 2012. That was three years after he first performed Queen’s 1977 hit, “We Are The Champions,” on “American Idol” with the band’s two key surviving co-founding members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor.
“They are both great, and it feels like a family at this point,” Lambert said of May, 75, and Taylor, 73.
“There’s a lot of paternal energy with them — and a lot of humor. I really enjoy being a part of them and reveling in how they get to be forever young when they are on stage. I love being able to be part of that experience in a band that is so legendary and honoring (deceased Queen singer) Freddie (Mercury) every night.
“I’ve learned a lot from Brian and Roger, just from example. They conduct themselves in a real classy way and have a ton of experience being on the road. They enjoy themselves. We dine together and laugh together. It’s amazing.”
Lambert is in a unique position with his dual careers. As the lead singer in Queen, he performs in stadiums and arenas. As a solo artist, he performs in intimate theaters.
“I’m very fortunate getting to do both,” he agreed. “The fact I’ve been able to do them, side by side, over the past 10 years is incredible. It’s worked out very well, and it’s really well-balanced between the two. I want to keep doing both as long as possible.”
The colorful stage outfits Lambert wears for his performances with Queen have become one of his trademarks. This sartorial flair can be traced back to Lambert’s days as a child actor in musicals in San Diego.
“Early on as a kid, I enjoyed playing dress-up. A lot of kids do, and it just stuck with me,” he said. “Then I discovered theater, which was basically dressing up all the time, and it sort of snowballed into my passion.”
The Halloween theme of Lambert’s current “The Witch Hunt” tour harks back to Lambert’s youth in San Diego. He fondly recalls getting decked out to go trick-or-treating, with help from his mother, Leila.
“My mom showed me a picture of me as a dragon when I was 5,” he recalled. “She painted my face with fire coming out of my mouth. and I had a cape. Then I was a vampire. I have a history of dressing up like a vampire. As I got more into stage makeup as I got older, I got more excited. That’s when my imagination started firing.”
“I celebrate Halloween when I’m on tour and even when I’m not on tour,” he replied. “I love the holiday, and it’s exciting to put together a (concert tour) especially for Halloween.”
Shock-rock pioneer Alice Cooper has stated that each of his concerts, year-round, qualifies as a Halloween show.
Lambert chuckled appreciatively.
“I don’t allow the time of year to dictate how crazy I dress,” he said. “On Queen tours, I’m always trying to outdo my last look. Things are sparkling and fringe is flying! It’s fun. I look for opportunities to express myself — and I like to express myself!”
Lambert grew more introspective when he was asked to reflect on his artistic evolution between the release of his 2015 album, “The Original High,” and now.
“I think that, then, I wanted to prove I have earned a spot in the music industry,” he said. “Credibility was very important to me, and it still is. But I feel like I’ve done that now and I want to have fun!
“I had fun before that, too. But now, more than ever, I realize exactly who I am, personally and professionally. I know what I can do that others can’t — and what I should be trying to do. It’s nice to take the guesswork out. I feel settled and comfortable in my skin. And having and sharing that newfound discovery with an audience feels really good.”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 23
Where: Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter
Tickets: $37.50-$107.50, plus service charges
Phone: (619) 570-1100
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