Since its opening in 2002 this show has gone from strength to strength. Say it loud, We Will Rock You is an international phenomenon. Written by the polymath, Ben Elton this offering takes as its base Queen’s infectious back catalogue and weaves the classics (and there are many) into a dystopian tapestry.
Under the direction of Cornelious Baltus and an impressive set design by ‘Stufish Entertainment Architects’ we’re transported to 2032 where the Bohemians, reminiscent of Neo in the Matrix, are a rebel group in search of a leader (a dreamer) someone who will lead the fight against Globasoft on planet Mall. Individuality and music have been clamped down on and everyone’s become either a homogenised Gaga Girl or Boyzone clone; kept passive on a diet of synth music and X Factor. The downtrodden Bohemians must find the ‘legend’ and the ‘legend’ (Galileo) must find the axe that will end misery and allow society to ‘break free’.
The digital sets are a commanding demonstration of state-of-the-art kit, the kind you’d expect at any stadium super gig. They provide an excellent back drop to either the rebel hideout or the Killer Queen’s lair. By far the most impressive aspect of this show is the music. That may be because Queen, and Freddy Mercury in particular, were such talented geniuses or because suddenly it becomes obvious that Queen has secretly been the soundtrack to our lives all this time.
Ian McIntosh (Galileo) nails the vocals in his rendition of Freddy/Galileo. He has the presence and the moves. The show stealer, however, is Scaramouche (Elena Skye). She’s a heady mix of funny, quick-witted, intelligent and vulnerable all at the same time.
By far the weakest part of this show is the plot. First, because it’s essentially an updated quest-buddy romp that’s very self-aware; it also knows it doesn’t have to try too hard because around the corner is another ‘Queen-classic’ ready for consumption. I say this with a sad heart because Ben Elton’s television scripts have been remarkable. Please don’t misunderstand me there is wit in the dialogue; there are also lashing of double-entendres; and ‘in joke’ song references that by and large don’t feel crow-barred in. The choreography is very good but in today’s post MTV generation I expected a little more.
The humour works and the key moments that stood out for me were the video (v-day-o) cassette moments; meeting ‘Britney Spears’; and the motorcycle scene – look out for them. And it’s no coincidence that Buddy (Michael McKell) is involved in most of them – excellent comic timing and delivery; think Neil from the Young Ones meets Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean).
We Will Rock You works best when the Queen tracks are being belted out. I wasn’t a fan of jukebox musicals. But, having witnessed the love in the audience and the effort on stage I’ve been converted.★ ★ ★
We Will Rock You by Ben Elton is at The Palace Theatre, Manchester from 27 January to 8 February 2020.
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