Review by Miranda Michalowski
If I had to explain to you what the plot of ‘We Will Rock You: The Musical’ is, I would probably struggle to do so. I honestly think that if you approached the writer of this show (I googled him and his name is Ben Elton), he would also have a tough time answering that question.
But who cares? It’s Queen! - is what I imagine Ben Elton would say. And Ben’s right, it IS Queen.
So here is my attempt at summarising this fever-dream of a show:
We Will Rock You is a jukebox musical, featuring the discography of the British rock band Queen (you may have heard of them). The musical is set on the iPlanet, a dystopian world where an evil corporation ‘Globalsoft’ has taken control and replaced “real music”, with CRAP (Computer Recorded Anodyne Pop). The teenagers of this world are essentially clones who text incessantly, listen to CRAP, and speak and dress exactly the same
But when two free-thinking teenagers cross paths - Galileo ‘The Dreamer’ and feisty Scaramouche, they decide to abandon the world they have always known. THey join forces with a rebel group ‘The Bohemians’, to take down the evil ‘Killer Queen’ and restore the power of rock once and for all.
Mostly, this script feels like a lot of bad jokes and song references sandwiched between an impressive number of Queen songs. But that’s fine by me, because I happen to agree with Mr Elton.
MUSE’s production of ‘We Will Rock You’ features some undoubtedly fantastic vocalists, so it is more of a spectacle than a story-that-makes-sense. Experienced young performers Elliena Escott ‘Galileo’ and Maggie Hartsukyer ‘Scaramouche’ both hold their own, in a vocally demanding show. I heard audible gasps during Hartsukyer’s opening song, ‘Somebody to Love’. Similarly, Claire Garment is a vocal powerhouse as the Killer Queen, and gives an acting performance reminiscent of your favorite Disney villains. Tennessee Baz-Jeffrey and Caitlin Whiter give charming performances as the Bohemian duo ‘Brit’ and ‘Oz’, with some enjoyable comic moments from ‘Brit’ (named after pop icon Britney Spears). Whiter’s heartfelt and beautifully sung rendition of ‘No-One But You’ was a highlight of the night. Andrew Smallbone ‘Buddy’ and Amy Jones 'Khashoggi’ also give assured supporting performances. While the acting as a whole left something to be desired, I would chalk this up to the flimsiness of the script, not the merit of these young performers.
The ensemble also had varying levels of conviction, and some choreography felt under-rehearsed. But they boosted the show’s energy and offered enjoyable renditions of ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’.
Director Amelie Downer makes some directorial choices that play into the camp nature of the story - including an humorous opening title-screen, although I did feel that some transitions were slow. The musical also features some dazzling sci-fi-inspired costumes - including bubblegum-coloured wigs for the Gaga Kids and a spectacular sparkly bodysuit worn by the Killer Queen. The minimalist set - limited to a pair of rotating flats and a screen at the back of the stage allowed for clear transitions between settings. When I saw this production on opening night, there were some technical sound issues, but this did not detract from the impressive band and vocals performances.
Some theatre shows are like a piece of steak: they’re meaty and give you something to chew on. ‘We Will Rock You: The Musical’ is more like a bag of pink fairy floss that you buy at the Easter Show: it’s not going to fill you up, but you can’t deny that it’s delicious.
This production is MUSE’s first mainstage show after a tough 2 years of lockdowns and cancellations. It is exciting to see student theatre back in the spotlight, doing what it does best; showcasing the talent of emerging artists and crew. While this musical is now closed, I would keep an eye out for the young artists in it - cause they’ve got some serious rocking to do.