It's a long way from the town of Winterton, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa to New Plymouth, but it's a trip performer Dominic Warren has made before and he is "very excited" to be returning to the city this month.
Warren is playing Freddie Mercury in tribute show Queen: It's a Kind of Magic which is touring New Zealand, putting on shows in 22 towns across the country, with New Plymouth the third stop on the tour.
It's the third time the show has come to New Zealand and Warren says his memories of New Zealand are all positive.
"Before touring with this show, I had never been to New Zealand, but coming here last time was amazing and I am so excited to be back in the country. I love the way New Zealand audiences really get involved in shows like ours, they don't just sit and listen, they get up, they dance, they sing, it's really rewarding."
Before being cast as Mercury in the tribute show, Warren had resorted to busking on the streets of Cape Town "to make the rent", he says.
"I think busking at some point is kind of a rite of passage for all singers and musicians."
Born in Winterton in South Africa, Warren has always loved music and singing, he says. Although he is now gaining international acclaim for his portrayal of a rock legend it wasn't originally rock music where his talent took him.
As a young teen, Warren was a member of the Drakensberg Boys' Choir School in KwaZulu-Natal before attending Kearsney College, a private boarding school located between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. There he joined the school's award-winning choir eventually becoming head chorister there.
"We went to the World Choir Games, yes, they exist! We actually did really well at those, we went to China and Cincinnati in the USA, winning gold medals at the games."
On finishing high school, where he was awarded the school's music trophy for outstanding solo performance, Warren was looking forward to heading to the USA to continue his studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston for which he had been awarded a scholarship. That plan changed however, when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. While this health setback stopped him studying in Boston, Warren didn't let it stop his dream of a career in music.
"Diabetes is very much a lifestyle. Once you start thinking of it as being a lifestyle, not a disease, then it becomes easier."
Instead of Boston, Warren studied classical music at the University of Cape Town where he specialised in baroque music. Baroque is music composed back in 1600 to 1750, and Dominic says it was a time when composers began to explore, and put more emphasis on, the dramatic power of music.
After graduating he made ends meet by performing gigs at hotels around the city as well as busking. In 2019, Showtime Australia were in Cape Town with the Michael Jackson tribute show and holding auditions for their planned Queen tribute show.
"I went to the audition hoping for any spot in the show, I didn't care what, a backup singer, I would have taken any role in any of their shows. I liked what Showtime was doing and wanted to be part of it."
He says it was a case of "the right place at the time" landing the role of Freddie Mercury. But from the reviews the show has received so far, it is clear the show's producers spotted the talent in front of them.
While he had spent much of his musical life prior to the role as a chorister, or singing tenor in baroque musical pieces such as the Bach Passions, he has always loved rock music, especially the music of Queen, he says.
"Freddie Mercury's music is as challenging as baroque in places, and I have always been a Queen fan. Growing up I played their music, learned the songs, I read books about the band, I loved them."
In his teens, he learned the iconic, and tricky to master, song Somebody to Love, and it remains one of his favourite songs to perform.
"I love the technicality in the song, and I love the audience reaction to it as well."
Warren will be joined on stage by Michael Dickens as drummer Roger Taylor, Andre Van Der Merwe as bassist John Deacon, and guitarist Rusty Red as Brian May.
"It's a whole production, it's everything together. We have the lights, the costumes, even the moustache. It's a brilliant experience seeing it on stage whether you are a Queen fan or simply a music fan."
Playing Mercury on stage is a dream come true, says Warren.
"I am just so fortunate, so lucky, to be able to live my dream like this, to travel, perform on stage and have such an exciting life through music."
Queen: It's A Kinda Magic: TSB Theatre-TSB Showplace, April 17. Tickets available through Ticketek.