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Theatre Review: We Will Rock You

We Will Rock You

by Queen and Ben Elton

Director Ben Elton

Sydney Lyric Theatre

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

Image Credits: Jeff Busby

We Will Rock You has been produced around the world since 2002, with more than 16 million

people having experienced this Ben Elton tribute to Queen.

It’s set in the year 2350 on iPlanet, where live music, rock and roll and musical instruments are banned. The music industry, dominated by synthesised techno, is controlled by the GlobalSoft Corporation headed by the Killer Queen. Under her rule, the Ga Ga Kids watch the same movies, listen to computer-generated music, wear the same clothes and hold the same thoughts and opinions. Conformity is king and Radio Ga Ga rules the airwaves.

The last remaining remnants of the banned music are The Bohemians led by Buddy (Holly and The Crickets), and all of the others in the tribe have adopted the names of rock performers, apart from “Britney Spears”.

Enter “The Dreamer”, a rebel in a black t-shirt and leather jacket. He’s a young American named Galileo Figaro. The words from old songs keep ringing through his head and he doesn’t know why. A young East London woman, Scaramouche, emerges as his perfect foil to both support and challenge him. They are eventually inspired to go to “the place of living rock”, Wembley Stadium, now a deserted ruin. They find out what “the axe” is and it turns out to be the key to rock revival.

All of the songs are there. Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Innuendo, I Want to Break Free, Somebody to Love, I Want It All, Another One Bites The Dust, Fat Bottomed Girls, Bicycle Race, Flash, Headlong and others build up to the title song, We Will Rock You and the victory anthem, We Are The Champions. After the curtain calls, Queen’s signature Bohemian Rhapsody is rousingly performed by the entire cast.

Buddy is Brian Mannix of Uncanny X-Men fame, the compelling link between the past and the present. Mannix’s stage presence is undeniable and his character projects certainty and vulnerability at the same time. As Killer Queen, Casey Donovan is also strong, although at times, her character and voice seemed a bit forced. I couldn’t help but think that she might have trusted the sound operator to find the level and allow the intrinsic strength and gravitas of the character to come through organically.

Gareth Keegan, who was in Jersey Boys, plays Galileo. Keegan’s performance is reliable and solid until he lets loose with We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions; that’s when he soars. As Scaramouche, Erin Clare, whom I last saw in Heathers the Musical at the Hayes Theatre, reveals her considerable talent early on with her outstandingly riveting rendition of I Want Break Free. In powerful support are Thern Reynolds as Brit and Jaz Flowers as Oz. Ensuring that the performers sound even better is Musical Director Dave Skelton who makes the eight-piece band sound enormous.

Throughout the production, a horizontal half-cyclorama is used to establish the scenes and is in line with the MTV-style formula.

With a storyline through which we desperately want the rockers to win over conformity and mediocrity (perhaps some of the current music artists and producers could take some lessons), coupled with the iconic music of Queen, We Will Rock You is one of the big three must-see musicals being staged in Sydney at the moment. Do yourself a favour, go to We Will Rock You, and you will leave the Lyric Theatre feeling exhilarated and humming or singing some of your favourite songs.

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