Book: Ben Elton
Music and Lyrics: Queen
Director: Ben Elton
We Will Rock You is a love letter to rock and roll with many touching references to Freddie Mercury.
It bursts into action with a Star Wars-inspired prologue coupled with some freeze-framed spotlights on the unnamed ensemble. This adds a sense of foreboding and is visually riveting. However, the beginning of the show then gets off to a slow start as we establish the dystopian nature of the society in which these characters live. That is not to say that there aren’t moments of exceptionally staged theatre, just that the narrative itself is a little sluggish as it finds its way alongside the music.
The story follows Galileo (Ian Mcintosh) and Scaramouche (Elena Skye), two rebels who fight against the oppressive ways of the regime to bring back rock and roll. Mcintosh gives an intricate and physical performance, often referencing the iconic moves and mannerisms of Mercury. His voice is powerful, and he delivers a technically flawless vocal performance. Galileo, the dreamer, spouts lyrics from a range of songs and artists from Gangnam Style to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction much to the audience’s amusement.
Kentaur’s costume design for Galileo also very much references Freddie. He is a dark inversion of Freddie’s iconic looks. The white vest and light jeans are replaced with a grey vest and dark jeans and later the Iconic yellow biker jacket is referenced when Galileo is given a black and red detailed one. Throughout his arc, we see many subtle nods to Freddie, but never does he cheapen the role by attempting to impersonate him.
Skye breathes life into Scaramouche with deadpan wit and often provides moments of light relief within the show. Her vocal delivery is impeccable, and during Somebody to Love, she shines as she effortlessly showcases her incredible rock belt. There are times when the chemistry between the two leads feels a little forced but overall, they work well as the driving force within this story.
An injection of pure adrenaline comes in the form of Brit (David Michael Johnson) and Meat ( Martina Ciabatti Mennell). Their dynamic energy coupled with intense sexual chemistry lifts the entire show and from their introduction in I Want It All, the show really hits its stride. Johnson pulls focus in every scene with his effervescence, bouncing from group to group like a pinball. Mennell on the other hand is a pocket rocket. Diminutive in stature, she wows in No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young), as she proves herself to be a vocal powerhouse with a voice like a sledgehammer. As a pairing, these two scene-stealers are visually stunning, with controlled movement and fantastic voices to boot. They are captivating and tragic in the Act I finale The Show Must Go On. As the number builds, we are treated to an exceptionally well-choreographed stop-motion riot in which both Mennell and Johnson deliver a masterclass in non-verbal storytelling. They, along with the ensemble cast, deliver some beautiful tableaux, climaxing in a kneeling crucifix which plays well against the gorgeous lighting design by Rob Sinclair and Luke Rolls.
The show also pulls references to many other rockers too. The Bohemians, for example, take their names from rockers that they have found in magazines. Jacob Fearey’s choreography pops like a 1980’s exercise video in the angular sequences of Radio Gaga. It is cute and quirky and establishes the population as mindless drones succinctly. Originally written in 2002, Ben Elton’s book has aged well and has been able to stay relevant with a peppering of jokes and quick-fire references to current events
But ultimately the draw for this musical is the fact that is a story that has been retrofitted with no less than 24 bangers by Queen, expertly sung and danced with the accompaniment of a live, ribcage-rattling rock band. Despite its early narrative pacing issues, this musical is a solid piece of musical theatre and is endlessly entertaining, a spectacle from beginning to end. A jukebox musical that, using the music of Queen, spreads a message of love, creativity and freedom.
Runs until 26 March 2022 and on tour