Book: Ben Elton
Music and lyrics: Queen
Director: Cornelius Baltus
Riding on the wave of last year’s smash film Bohemian Rhapsody and the ever-popular jukebox musical format, this show proves that people will lap up any Queen mania whatever the songs’ mediocre setting.
The show is set ‘some time’ in the future. Corporation GlobalSoft has taken over, and rock and roll has long gone (ostensibly music itself doesn’t exist but it’s not clear). Enter rebel Galileo Figaro (Ian McIntosh) whose dreams are filled with lyrics and music, but he can’t figure out what it all means. Along with fellow rebel/love interest Scaramouche (Elena Skye), he goes to search for the mythical land of champions to release the spirit of rock and roll.
It’s not simply the premise that offers a multitude of cringes but Ben Elton’s book. Anytime the performers open their mouths to release anything other than song, we get eye-wincing jokes and panto dialogue. Supposed ‘revisions’ to update the show (which first opened in 2002) amount to throwing in references to Gangnam Style and hashtags, whilst leaving in fogeyish jokes about forgettable X Factor winners and a male character called Britney Spears. It is an ominous warning of a technological future, that has the vibe of the Millennium Bug, with female Bohemian rebels dressed like Christina Aguilera.
Ben Elton has aimed for something similar to Flash Gordon (the 1980 film Queen composed and performed the soundtrack to), a B-movie camp that’s enjoyable despite its cheesiness. However, the trouble with writing a good ‘bad’ story is that you just write a bad, bad story, which audiences suffer through to get to the only bit worth watching: the songs.
Luckily the songs are well-delivered, with the female vocals coming out on top (perhaps because the men will inevitably be compared with Freddie Mercury). Skye as Scaramouche and Amy Di Bartolomeo as Oz (one of the tribe of Bohemians, who want to resurrect rock) have a nice rock vocal but the highlight is Jenny O’Leary as the Killer Queen, who brings a diva authority to songs like Fat Bottomed Girls and is the one character that isn’t somewhat irritating. This isn’t due to the performances but rather mostly down to the thankless roles, particularly Galileo as the wimpy saviour of rock and roll.
As a costumed concert performance, the show would have been fun. Lajos Turi Peter’s choreography energises and entertains, and the performers do the songs justice. The bass gets your heart pumping as the plot flatlines it; this is not a musical you would choose to watch for the plot. The music is at the heart of this production, and if you like Queen then We Will Rock You is for you!
Touring nationwide | Image: Contributed