Friday, 2 September 2016

We Will Rock You, Sept 1, 2016 ***1/2


Music & Lyrics by Queen, Story & Script by Ben Elton 
Produced by John Frost, Queen Theatrical Productions, Phil McIntyre Entertainment and Tribeca Theatrical Productions 
Regent Theatre, until Oct 30, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2

 Review also published online at Herald Sun Arts on Friday, Sept 2, 2016 & later in print. KH
Erin Clare (guitar L), Gareth Keegan (on mic) - pic Joe Calleri

If you’ve ever sung along tunelessly to We Are The Champions or played air guitar to Bohemian Rhapsody, you’ll find plenty to love in Ben Elton and Queen’s musical, We Will Rock You.

Since its 2002 premiere in London, this jukebox musical has been rejigged, rewritten and redirected now by Elton himself, and it keeps on rocking audiences around the globe.

Its wild success with the public, if not critics, is due almost entirely to the repertoire of Queen’s unforgettable, operatic-rock songs that includes Radio Ga Ga, I Want To Break Free, Somebody To Love and Under Pressure.

An exhilarating band under musical director, David Skelton, plays Queen’s music live in this Australian production and the searing guitar riff performed on stage by Simon Croft at the end of the show is a ripsnorter.

Even Elton’s often clumsy dialogue and the cheesy narrative that acts as a washing line on which to hang the songs, cannot deter the crowd from cheering, clapping, waving their arms and singing along with their favourite Queen melodies.

In 2350, live music is banned on iPlanet (AKA Earth), kids consume computer-generated music and underground rebels, the Bohemians, worship ancient texts about Rock music, pine for live instruments and wait for a musical messiah to take them to Rock freedom.

Enter two social misfits: Galileo Figaro (Gareth Keegan), a confused, disaffected kid who alarmingly hears old Rock lyrics and tunes in his head, and Scaramouche (Erin Clare), his feisty, rebellious, soon-to-be girlfriend.

Keegan’s voice has a bright timbre and his vocals soar in I Want to Break Free, a duet with Clare, and in rousing choruses of We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, but it is impossible for any singer to compete with Freddie Mercury’s voice in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Clare has a rich, bold voice singing Somebody to Love and she is vibrant, charming and funny as Scaramouche, making the most of this troubled but gutsy character.

A rockin’ crowd-pleaser is Headlong, sung by Keegan and Clare with Jaz Flowers as Oz, the bolshy Bohemian, and Thern Reynolds as Oz’s outrageously physical lover, Britney.

With her versatility and audacious characterisation, Flowers almost steals the show with her thrilling rendition of No-One But You, while Brian Mannix provides comic relief as the old, hippy, Rock history archivist, Buddy.
 Jaz Flowers & Bohemians -pic Joe Calleri
Casey Donovan, as the omnipotent Killer Queen, brings powerhouse vocals to Another One Bites the Dust and Killer Queen, although her lower register lacks strength, and Simon Russell is suitably creepy and smug as Khashoggi, her enforcer.

Arlene Phillips’ vivacious choreography features an androgynous, pastel-costumed chorus of Ken and Barbie lookalikes writhing to Radio Ga Ga, the Bohemians cavorting wildly to We Will Rock You, and the Secret Police moving robotically to a metronomic beat.

In Elton’s playfully idiotic script, characters pepper their dialogue with fragments of song lyrics – an example being Galileo’s early plea, “Help! I need somebody!” – and the Bohemians boys bear the names of female pop idols, Madonna and Britney Spears.

Songs are shoehorned into the story, the mish-mash of accents is distracting, some lyrics are changed to fit the narrative and the script is crying out for an editor’s scalpel to excise chunks of repetitive, redundant and silly dialogue.

The show is really a terrific, Queen tribute concert with great dance and,digital visuals interrupted by daggy dialogue and story – but the crowd love it!

The electrifying, pyrotechnical finale of We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions and Bohemian Rhapsody, catapulted the enthusiastic, opening night audience to its feet to dance and cheer. Rock on, Queen!

By Kate Herbert 
 Erin Clare -pic Joe Calleri
 Casey Donovan - pic Joe Calleri
Bohemians - pic Joe Calleri

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