Book: Ben Elton
Music and Lyrics: Queen
Director: Ben Elton
“Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time” go the lyrics – and a good time is pretty much assured for any lover of Queen and their music at We Will Rock You, currently part way through a twentieth-anniversary tour. With a book by Ben Elton to link the songs, what you get is a show full of classic Queen hits with some wonderful comedy in between.
Jukebox musicals can sometimes be a bit hit and miss – the script has to be contrived to make the songs – which were not written with musical theatre in mind – fit into the plot. Sometimes it doesn’t work and feels stilted – but this is where having a comedy writer working on the book really pays off. We Will Rock You doesn’t take itself seriously – in fact, it sends itself up from start to finish, often making jokes out of the way the script is worked around fitting in the next number. It’s typical Ben Elton humour – think Blackadder and Upstart Crow, to take just two of the shows Elton has worked on, and you’ll understand the sort of comedy to be found here.
It’s unlikely that anyone would go expecting a deep and meaningful story, but there is a plot holding everything together. The time is the future. Globalsoft now run the iPlanet, formerly known as Earth. Life is lived online, entertainment is bland and streamed at the touch of a button. Live music has died. Yet a group of rebels, the Bohemians, stand against the establishment, inspired by legends of a mighty axe that will regenerate a love of live rock music. Our hero, Galileo sets off on a quest to find this legendary instrument, accompanied by his love interest Scaramouche.
It’s not all about the script of course – what many people come to hear is the music, still hugely popular over fifty years since Queen first got together, and we have a cast who are more than capable of delivering it. It’s an ensemble effort with some great voices on stage. Ian McIntosh’s Galileo delivers the Freddie Mercury solos with apparent ease, with Elena Skye also in good voice as a sassy and forthright Scaramouche. She has some of the best lines in the show and delivers them with good comic timing.
There’s strong support from Jenny O’Leary as Killer Queen, Michael McKell as an optimistic but slightly clueless Cliff and Edward Leigh, on stage as cover as Brit. Rounding off the principal cast is Martina Ciabatti Mennell as Meat, whose tender rendition of No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young) provides a moment of reflection among the comedy and up-tempo music. It’s all accompanied by an excellent on-stage rock band, which comes across as almost too loud if you’re sitting too close to the speakers in the auditorium.
Expect to hear most of the Queen classics. Radio Ga Ga, I Want to Break Free, Somebody to Love, We Will Rock You, the hits just keep on coming, over two dozen of them by the time the final curtain comes down. It’s a show that almost develops into a Queen tribute rock concert and one that has the press night audience at the Hippodrome on their feet and joining in when invited at the end.
If you’re a Queen fan and haven’t had chance to see the show yet, catch it while it’s on tour. Great stuff.
Runs until 30 July and on tour