Here’s How This Burlington Native Helped Rami Malek Prepare for Bohemian Rhapsody


Movie geeks in Burlington may be happy to learn that a very popular film has a connection to the city.

No, the setting isn’t Burlington, nor was the movie shot in Burlington; however, a Burlington native did help Rami Malek prepare to play the role of Freddie Mercury.

Burlington’s Rob Preuss was just five and a half years old when he had his first piano lesson and things have only escalated since. When he was 10-years-old he joined his first band, and for the next several years Preuss would play in a bunch of different bands before joining the Spoons at 15.

When reminiscing about being in the Spoons Preuss said it was fantastic.

I was with the band for like five years,” Preuss said. “We did a bunch of records and we toured a lot. We had songs that were on the radio. We toured a lot in Canada, we did some American tours, but primarily our success was in Canada.”

After the Spoons, Preuss joined a band called Honeymoon Suite when he was 21-years-old. The band toured the country, as well as the U.S., Europe, and Japan.  

When I joined the band, they were already pretty successful, so I kind of jumped on board when they were already in progress,” Preuss said.

In addition to touring, the band also went on to win a Juno award.

After being in Honeymoon Suite for a couple of years, Preuss was looking for another challenge - that’s when musical theatre first came into the picture.

Phantom of the Opera was coming to Toronto and I kind of thought ‘Wow you know this musical is all about this guy who plays the organ and it’s a musical - maybe there’s something that I could do getting involved in musicals’,” Preuss said.

That quickly became Preuss’ next challenge and something he has been working on for almost 30 years.

Over the course of his career so far, Preuss has been involved in many different musicals, including the Broadway production of Mamma Mia! in New York - where he and his wife now live. 

I did the show [Mamma Mia!] in Toronto for about a year, and then when they were putting the Broadway production together, the creators from London asked if I would come to New York with the show - that was in August of 2001,” Preuss said. “And I ended up doing the whole run of the show, we ran for about 14 years.”

The show closed about three and a half years ago.

Since then, Preuss has been involved with many other projects including other musicals, and recording projects.

Mamma Mia! was my steady show for so many years but once the show closed I kind of realized I missed doing lots of different things,” Preuss said. “I’m still trying to reach back out and work with as many different people as I can.”

One person Preuss has since worked with is Rami Malek - the actor who very recently won an Oscar for his leading role in Bohemian Rhapsody- a biographical movie about Freddie Mercury (the lead vocalist of the famous rock band Queen).

Before the film went into production, Preuss helped Malek prepare for the role of Mercury. 

When Preuss got the initial call to help Malek, he knew it was something he could do.

When I got this call to do the coaching for the film, and when they told me what it was I was like ‘Yes I can totally help him’ because Rami was not a piano player at all,” Preuss said. “I knew I was going to have to give him really preliminary guidance in what he’s going to have to get involved with.”

Preuss continued, “The fact that I had played these Queen songs when I was 10 or 11-years-old, it was like it was in my blood [to help].”

Preuss and Malek only had a few sessions together before Malek flew off to London to work on the film; however, Preuss’ guidance was the first step on the ladder of Malek’s whole performance. 

I know in the final film there were like five or six piano coaches, and four or five vocal coaches, and all these different people involved in helping him,” Preuss said. “It was more important for him to get the feeling of what it was going to look like, so that’s kind of what I was helping him to do.”

Even though Preuss and Malek only worked together for a short period of time, it was still something Preuss had fun doing. 

It’s always neat when actors have to take on a role and they have to get like a crash-course on things,” Preuss said. “So, for me, even though it was a short process, it was fun to think ‘Well I’m going to just show him all the things I know’. We got to talk about the different aspects of Freddie’s personality, and the different aspects of his musicality because Freddie was such a wide-ranging character. 

Bohemian Rhapsody first came out in the UK in October of 2018. And despite working with Malek so early on (in the summer of 2017), Preuss was still recognized in the film.

When I did it [worked with Malek], I knew the film was far off in the distance so by the time it came along I thought ‘I don’t even know if I’m going to get a credit in the movie or not’,” Preuss said. “But sure enough, I got my name in the credits.”

Now, Preuss subs in on the Phantom of the Opera show in New York when needed - playing two keyboard parts - in addition to working on many other projects.

I just finished doing a workshop for a new musical with songs from the B-52’s, and then I’m involved in a couple of different recording projects with some performers in Canada,” Preuss said. “My wife and I have a musical theatre program we do here with kids in Queens, New York.”

Preuss said he is always looking for different projects, and is even in the process of planning his very own mini solo Canadian tour. However, when it comes to future projects Preuss said he doesn’t have any major goals but just tries to keep an open mind. 

I just try to stay open to any possibilities of any projects that are coming along,” Preuss said. “I keep on surprising myself, I never would have expected I got to be involved in that film the way I did.”

Photo is courtesy of Rob Preuss.

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