MusicalNorth WestReview

We Will Rock You – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Reviewer: Helen Jones

Book: Ben Elton

Music and Lyrics: Queen

Director: Cornelius Baltus

Eighteen years ago Ben Elton and the remaining active members of Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor) put together what is now one of the longest-running jukebox musicals in We Will Rock You. It still sells out while on tour around the world, but this must be due more to the enduring power of Queen’s music than the depth and plot of this rather thinly storied show.

Set in the future, when the only music on the iPlanet is controlled by a global internet/social media corporation and all young people are expected to conform, there are the occasional bohemians, people who believe that music can live again. Two young people Galileo Figaro (who hears the words in his head) and Scaramouche (an equally rebellious young woman) escape the confines of GaGa University and set out looking for other rebels like themselves. They find the bohemians but the authorities find them. The evil Killer Queen and her henchman Khashoggi try to stop Galileo and Scaramouche but eventually the music triumphs over the authorities.

The majority of the characters and plot devices are derivative and predictable but the cast work hard to try to make the tenuous links cohesive. Ian McIntosh as Galileo has a great voice, reasonable acting ability, handles most of his songs well (although if I ever heard that version of Under Pressure again it would be too soon) and knows how to belt out the classics of We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. Elena Skye’s Scaramouche while feisty and fun was often less convincing in her ability to sing Queen tracks. She has a great voice but somehow it wasn’t enough. Adam Strong’s Khashoggi was well acted with good comic timing but not strong enough vocally while Jenny O’Leary’s Killer Queen made this reviewer wince with her vocal shenanigans and lacked any real presence.

There were however three truly standout performances. David Michael Johnson’s Brit was engaging and with a wonderful voice that carried his numbers well. Amy Di Bartolomeo as Oz (originally known as Meat in many productions) had a voice to rival the best out there and gave her version of No One But You (Only The Good Die Young) a depth and emotion lacking from the rest of the show. Finally, Michael Mckell as Buddy subtly stole every scene he was in. Maturity and charisma combining with his years of experience, great comic timing and good physicality to make Buddy the most rounded character.

Revamped sets and costumes by Hungarian artist/designer Kentaur were fun but evocative of how the 80s thought the 21st Century would be. However, there are not enough superlatives for the musical direction of the band under Bob Broad and the lead guitar of James Barber was as if hearing Brian May at his finest.

There are, unfortunately, flaws in this production but the music carries it through and still gets the audience on their feet and joining in. Don’t expect anything intellectual but We Will Rock You does make a good night out.

Runs until 8 February 2020

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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