Nine years on, We Will Rock You continues to rock with just as much enthusiasm and as many Queen anthems (31 in total) as the day it opened.
Three hundred years into the future, we are catipulted to a world where all live music has been outlawed. Scaramouche and Galileo, first finding each other, then find themselves pitted against the Killer Queen in a bid to salvage instruments buried under the wreckage of Wembley Stadium and rescue rock.
The audience, apparently ready and prepped for a two-and-a-half hour celebration of everything Freddie Mercury and co. have a ball, apparently happy to overlook the beyond-laughable Ben Elton book for some rousing renditions of the Queen classics.
The vocal performances are fantastic, Ricardo Afonso and Sarah French demonstrating stunning belts as Galileo and Scaramouche alongside Brenda Edwards as the Killer Queen. For crowds seeking spectacle, over-blown video projection, outrageous costume and voices that do stadium rock justice in a West End theatre, this show is still a winner.
There is a smack of irony to the We Will Rock You world, commercialisation reigning supreme, being overrun by brain-washed Ga Ga Kids. Nearly a decade into this show's London run another totem of pop music commercialism, Lady Gaga herself, draws on the 1984 Queen track for her stage name.
And what more to top off a birthday celebration? Queen bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor on hand to show off the musical's recently earned Olivier Audience Award for Most Popular Show, as chosen by their dedicated and very vocal fans.
- Andrew Girvan
NOTE: The following THREE-STAR review dates from 14 May 2007 and the production's fifth anniversary.
We Will Rock You is the musical equivalent of pornography: gratuitous, exploitative and entirely delicious.
Five years after opening at the Dominion Theatre it remains easy to fault its distorted, inaudible lyrics, wince at its gaudy videography, and roll embarrassed eyes during terribly dated gags, but that cannot take away from the fact this spectacle framing the irrepressible music of Queen is acutely aware of both its loyal audience and itself.
Some 300 years in the future the world has become a homogenized shopping mall run by the totalitarian monopoly Globalsoft that has forbidden the creation of “real” music and banned all instruments. It is up to unwitting outcast Galileo Figaro (Peter Johansson), who dreams the lyrics of history’s greatest pop songs, and his sassy love-interest Scaramouche (Jenna Lee James) to recover the fabled rhapsody and release the bohemians from oppression. The result is a thunderous and extravagant ride through Queen’s back catalogue written and directed by comedian Ben Elton that will bring anyone without a heart condition to their feet.
Tim Goodchild’s costume design remains the star of the show. Kilts and corsets collide for the neo-punk miscellany of the fringe-dwelling bohemians contrasting the figure-hugging studded leather of busty tyrant Killer Queen (Mazz Murray). Allusions to Boy George and Tina Turner are scattered throughout, but the Geri Halliwell-inspired union jack number in the Australian production is sorely missed.
While a five-year run has proved We Will Rock You an international commercial success the script, which has undergone only minor adjustments, has dated significantly and it is hard to imagine new audiences remembering the Teletubbies. The quest to release inner rock will also offend lovers of 90s boy and girl bands with its unyielding infantile jibes against the genre (though I do recall Queen playing on the 5ive cover of the title track some years back).
Even non-Queen fans can continue feasting on this well-fermented musical cheese brimming with passionate performances and the infectious energy of an arena concert. Rock on Dominium.
- Malcolm Rock
NOTE: The following THREE-STAR review dates from 14 May 2002 featuring this production's original cast.
There's a certain sad irony about a production that so viciously attacks today's consumerist devotion to marketing and global brands while at the same time spending £1 million-plus on pre-opening hype, raising West End ticket prices to an all-time high and flooding the stalls with backpack-clad Coca Cola girls hawking drinks at a 100% mark-up.
Ah well, the creators and performers - if not the marketers - for We Will Rock You have more pressing concerns. How to cope with an onslaught of technological props? How to squeeze 31 Queen songs into two and a half hours? And, most critically, how to fashion any kind of sensible story around them? Their efforts in rising to such challenges meet with varying degrees of success.
Ben Elton's Flash Gordon-meets-Arthurian legend book is nothing short of preposterous. Some 300 years in the future, globalisation is complete and live music banned in favour of computer-produced cyber stars, but the ruling Killer Queen is facing growing resistance from the Bohemians intent on reviving the Golden Age when kids wrote their own songs. Enter young rebel Galileo, whose mission is to pull the sword (in this case, a gold lame electric guitar) from the stone and thus free the enslaved masses - as foretold by Queen, rock's freedom fighters of yore who saw the future and buried their musical instruments at Wembley.
If that little synopsis doesn't send you screaming in terror, then you may well enjoy We Will Rock You. Yes, it's cheesy and utterly ridiculous, but you can't deny it's somewhat cleverly serendipitous, and it does have its amusing moments - most especially when Nigel Planer's hippy librarian (an older Neil from The Young Ones) turns up, rather late in the day, to fill in the potted musical history.
There are other outstanding performances, particularly from the female principals. Diva extraordinaire Sharon D Clarke gives it large as the Killer Queen and, as Scaramouche, Hannah Jane Fox relishes some great sarcastic put-downs, proving herself as "one gutsy chick, man" with an even gutsier voice. Amongst the men, Alexander Hanson is underutilised despite his characteristically light comic touch as the albino commander, while Tony Vincent's performance as the hero Galileo is a bit too earnest and underpowered, though he makes up for it in his solo spot at the end.
Though many will detest them as too rock concerty, I also quite liked Mark Fisher and Willie Williams' set with its army of blinding lights and constantly refreshed bank of digital screens (the tagline teasers at the start and finish work especially well). No, the real problem is that there are simply too many songs, some very awkwardly shoehorned in and many of which just don't qualify for the "greatest hits" label.
If I were director Christopher Renshaw, I'd be tempted to ditch the also-ran tunes for a much zippier, if no less unapologetically kitsch or overhyped, production. That said, one number that should under no circumstance be excised is the choral curtain call of "Bohemian Rhapsody" - I wouldn't have missed that for anything.