Wednesday, 3 October 2007

REVIEW: "We Will Rock You"

For those who have escaped the show's presence (most of the US), We Will Rock You (WWRY) uses Queen's song catalogue to tell the story of a dystopian future where all music is created by computer and published by a single corporation and owning instruments or thinking independently is outlawed. Two teenagers find themselves on the outside, meet up with other rebels, and awaken the planet's youth through rock music. While the plot has the makings of engaging sci-fi, Ben Elton's script and direction reduce the storyline to sound bites so that the cast can get to the next song(aka the reason people are paying for tickets). Some of the numbers work well, some don't, many have changed lyrics which help greatly. A handful of the jokes and references are updated with each new cast in an attempt to stay fresh, again to varying effect.

The new cast are young, vibrant actors who rock through the score, but frequently end up flat on the acting, as if Elton is relying upon his stage managers to train replacements from original director Chris Renshaw's notes. All of the ensemble and secondary youths (Bohemians) are given just enough lines to stand out and be forgotten, but give it their all regardless. New Scaramouche Sabrina Aloveche delivers a solid performance, but fails to stand out against her predecessors. Returning cast members Alex Bourne (Khasoggi) and Mazz Murray (Killer Queen) ham it up as the piece's villains, but Bourne has trouble being heard in his musical numbers and Murray lacks the truly vicious streak needed to come off as threatening. Headlining the show as Galileo Figaro, understudy John Boyden sings the role well, but comes off with boyish charm instead of rocker rebellion. I suspect that much of his perceived weakness is genuine, and that he will grow stronger in his tenure.

That said, the true stars of WWRY are its score, band, and visual designs. The house band, hidden in the wings, plays the songs as real rock. While this method brings the sound and feel of Queen to the stage, it does so at the detriment of the lyrics, which become hard to discern, primarily during ensemble numbers. Production designer Willie Williams manages to flood his stage with set pieces, video screens, and lights of all sorts, truly bringing the “mega” back to “megamusical” in all the best ways. In this reviewer's opinion, the technical eye candy alone justifies the cost of a ticket.

Overall, WWRY is a fun night out and worth seeing once for the visuals, but otherwise best left for the tourists.

Where: Dominion Theatre
When: Open Run. Check listings for times.
Cost: £27.50-£60
Concessions: £20 student tickets, best left when the BO opens; £13.50 SRO when otherwise sold out
RZ unofficial “worth paying”: £15 for the tech and a few good moments. The show is fun, but not good enough to command its asking price for the stalls, though it does move quickly and is never boring. Add £5-10 depending on how much of a Queen fan you are. Chances are you'll either hit student price or TKTS rates.
RZ other notes: I saw this as much to go to the Dominion as to see the show itself. For those who don't know, Bill Hicks recorded his Revelations special at the Dominion, and much of the backstage tech was built in for Dave Clark's Time in 1986 (which has its own Queen/Freddie Mercury links). If you see WWRY, look up by the boxes for two gorgeous stained glass windows surrounding a pair of organs, one on either side. Lastly, for a show about the evils of corporate society, they sure were pushing ice cream during the interval and show merchandise after. Perhaps this is why they cut all the bits about “playing for the kids” over the years...

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