Book: Ben Elton
Music & Lyrics: Queen
Director: Cornelius Baltus
We Will Rock You first stunned audiences in 2002 and this revival does not disappoint. Thrillingly staged and gorgeously lit, it explodes with vitality, energy and exuberance and has the audience fully engaged for well over two hours. Re-imagined for 2020 it has style, wit and class in abundance. There is some thought that the show has become a bit tired and stale and the writing not as sharp and topical as it could be but this is absolute nonsense. On the evidence of the paying audience it is as alive as ever and even reaches the heights of reverence.
Of course, what everyone expects is to be entertained by all those amazing and iconic Queen songs and here we get over 20 of them, all brilliantly rendered by a talented cast of soloists and ensembles. But be warned it is very loud! It’s the nearest thing to actually being at a Queen concert without them being present.
Similar to Mamma Mia in the sense of a flimsy back story just being an excuse to play a band’s back catalogue of hits, We Will Rock You is set in a future 1984-type society in which all individuality and creativity as represented by the rebel Bohemians has been stifled by a repressive organisation run by Killer Queen (a sassy Jenny O’Leary) and her henchman Khashoggi (smooth talking in an Alan Rickman sort of way Adam Strong). Operating from their base in Gaga University there are lots of humorous jibes and comments about brainwashing modern society into worshipping mindless, characterless sound and vision to the exclusion of what really matters – the work and talents of individual artists who should be celebrated and remembered for their unique contribution to the world of music.
Into this scenario come our two heroes Galileo (Ian McIntosh) and Scaramouche (Elena Skye), he a dreamer and wordsmith who has long been awaited by a world eager to break free from the shackles of mundanity and she a rebel who rails against the machine. From initial curiosity and even hostility towards each other they grow in understanding and develop a deep love that reaches a climax in a full blown Bohemian Rhapsody. These two show a real chemistry that is funny, engaging and touching in equal measure.
However, the character who probably steals the show is Buddy, brilliantly played by the vastly experienced Michael McKell. He brings all his expertise and charisma to his portrayal of the rebel leader in the guise of a sort of hybrid Mick Jagger/Keith Richards that is hilarious to see. But there is more to him than sheer comedic timing as he demonstrates in one of the most moving songs of the show These Are The Days Of Our Lives. Mention must also be made of Edward Leigh as Brit and Kate Leiper as Oz who performed their roles with aplomb.
This production spares nothing in terms of lighting, stage design, acoustics and special effects. At times it’s as if you are immersed inside a video game like Tron and the overall effect is dazzling and psychedelic. The backstage live band must also be hugely commended particularly lead guitarist Simon Croft who appears at the end during Bohemian Rhapsody to rapturous applause.
Whether you are an experienced afficianado of the show or a complete newcomer you really cannot afford to miss this spectacular staging of this homage to the greatest rock band ever – Queen.
Runs until Saturday 22nd February 2020