Review By Annabelle Rosewarne
Packemin Productions’ We Will Rock You opened last night at the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta. A Jukebox Musical of you guessed it: the songs of legendary rock band Queen, featuring over 24 of their biggest hits. However, this is no ordinary Jukebox musical…
Set in a dystopian future, somewhere vaguely 300 years into the future, the Earth is now called the ‘iPlanet’, and is run by the ‘Globalsoft Corporation’. Reminiscent of Orwell, we enter a world where rigid conformity reigns. The youth of the iPlanet, ‘Ga Ga Kids’, lack any individuality and are ruled by technology. They all dress the same, think the same, and listen solely to computer-generated music. ‘Real’ musical instruments are forbidden, and Rock has been long forgotten.
Choreographer Katie Kermond captures the restrictive world of the iPlanet with her sharp and punchy choreography in the opening number, Radio Ga Ga. Ensemble members are dressed in matching stark white outfits, complete with futuristic wigs and sci-fi sunglasses, costumed by Audrey Currie, with hair and makeup by Karen Lamont-Barnett. They become a mass of robot bullies, marching around the stage and clapping in unison.
Enter our protagonist, Galileo (Toby Francis), a grungy misfit, who simply ‘Wants to break free’. A classic I-was-born-in-the-wrong-era teen, Galileo has strange dreams and hears words in his head, which are lyrics of lost songs of the past. A second anomaly is the feisty gothic Scaramouche (Kelsi Boyden), who, like Galileo, defies the rules and longs to find ‘Somebody to love’. It’s a familiar tale, a love story we have all heard before, two outsiders who find each other as they challenge the misunderstanding world around them.
Our two romantic leads meet their match with the evil Killer Queen played by Debora Krizak, who takes the wicked villain laugh to another level. Her henchman, Khashoggi is played by Cameron Sheilds, and the pair sing iconic hits ‘Killer Queen’, ‘A Kind of Magic’, ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and more. Completing the principal cast is the Resistance, Wayne Scott Kermond as Buddy, Eamon Moses as Brit (short for Britney Spears) and Emma Mylot as Oz, a group of bohemians, who live on the streets and gather junk in the hopes to make their own musical instruments and one day bring back real music.
There is no denying that the Principal cast are skilled vocalists, and bring justice to Freddie Mercury’s songs with their powerful rock belts. The music is this show’s saving grace, however as for the book by Ben Elton… the script has so many holes it could be Swiss cheese. The story lacks clarity and cohesion, with clunky transitions from scene into song. The tone of the show teeters dangerously on the edge of becoming a pantomime, losing any opportunity for heart or truthfulness. Ben Elton’s script is riddled with outdated sexist jokes, crude humour, and out-of-touch pop culture references attempting to be ‘hip’.
It’s by no means a serious play, but if you’re into something boisterous, light hearted and fun, then it’s an entirely different story.
For fans of Queen, the score alone is enough to look past the flaws in the writing. With music direction by Nicholas Griffin, the ensemble harmonies are tight and blend well. Yes, the book is cheesy, but it’s a show full of classics, which are wonderfully sung, supported by a killer band. Being Packemin’s 10th anniversary season, and 20th production, it is a milestone worthy of celebration, for a Pro/Am company who has been leading the way for Australian community theatre for years. After the year we’ve all had, who doesn’t love being back in the theatre, with a fun, silly albeit nonsensical show like We Will Rock You.
Image Credit: Grant Leslie