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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
We Will Rock You
by Lizzie Loveridge
In the future, Earth, now renamed Planet Mall, has banned live rock music and destroyed musical instruments. An ageing rocker, Pop (Nigel Planer) sets the scene. Manufactured boy bands and girl bands play their Ga Ga music. Corporate giant Globalsoft rules the world under the leadership of Killer Queen (Sharon D Clarke) and her chief henchman Khashoggi (Alexander Hanson). Galileo Figaro (Tony Vincent) a young visionary, "He's just a poor boy from a poor family" has strange dreams featuring fragments of rock lyrics and meets up with the rebellious punk girl, Scaramouche (Hannah Jane Fox). Together they discover the rebel kids who have gone underground, chased by the cyber police. Known collectively as the Bohemians, individually they are named after rock legends, but some with a sex name change, blondie Meat loaf (Kerry Ellis), corsetted Prince (Cameron Jack), muscle man Britney (Nigel Clauzel), and Macca (Giles New). With the help of Pop, Galileo and Scaramouche dicover the hiding place of the planet's last electric guitar, rock is reborn and Globalsoft crashes.
All Queen's greatest hits are there, sung by the cast who are supported by a live ten piece band. The music was then, and is now, middle of the road, but essentially tuneful and rousing, rock ballads. From "We are the Champions" to "These Are the Days of Our Lives", to "Only the Good Die Young" -- these are songs which you can leave the theatre singing. Whilst Ben Elton's storyline may not fall into the entirely credible category he is not afraid to send himself up. He wittily sprinkles the script with song titles from the 1960s and 70s which have come to Galileo in a dream. "Who are you?" they ask. "I am a Walrus. I wanna break free." If the Bohemians are caught by the Globalsoft borg police they are brainwashed so that the only tune they can sing is, "Oh I do want to be beside the Seaside", not a Queen number! Whilst Arlene Phillips' choreography is not as imaginative as Bob Fosse, the numbers meld well into the show and do not disappoint.
We Will Rock You has cost £7 million. Specially made LED screens have been imported from Hong Kong to give the impressive background graphics. In the first scene armies of uniform computer generated people with Ga Ga logos, like crash dummies, march towards us behind the classical columns of the graduation ceremony for the Ga Ga students as they sing "Radio Ga Ga". As Galileo and Scaramouche find the Bohemians underground, the set is an impressive derelict London Underground station. Tthe Bohemians are individually dressed as ragged versions of rockers, Adam Ant, Boy George, Rod Stewart, Marilyn, Madonna, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. The costumes are creative and wouldn't disgrace a Vivien Westwood show. By contrast the Ga Ga's are all identical pastels and the police Terminator clones. Killer Queen's Globalsoft board room table rises from the stage and swings out over the auditorium for the power hit "Killer Queen". When the Bohemians are reprogrammed, the backdrop is an old space invaders game, the music "Another One Bites the Dust". I particularly liked a silhouetted version of the Globalsoft workers like 1930s bathing beauties. There are lighting tricks, spilling into the auditorium with extra bright flashes, the lighting designer taking his cue from the exciting lighting of pop concerts.
The performances are uniformly good. Sharon Clarke as Killer Queen has a huge voice and an equally large presence, her sidekick is peroxide, slick suited, leather gloved, sunglassed Alexander Hanson. The big discovery is Nashville's Tony Vincent, a beautiful strong voice and good stage presence as the appealing, dreaming boy, Galileo. Hannah Jane Fox, edgy, punky, feminist "Don't call me chick!" as Scaramouche the girl who hates to wear pastels is fresh from starring in Taboo, Boy George's musical. I liked Kerry Ellis (Eliza's stand in at My Fair Lady who went on more than she should have) as Meat Loaf, heavy metal and gutsy singing and her friend Britney, Nigel Clauzel looking like one of the inhabitants of Muscle Beach with a strong deep voice.
If you like Queen, and this comes from someone who wouldn't count herself a fan, you will love We Will Rock You. After a curtain call, the question is asked, projected in writing, Do you want Bohemian Rhapsody?. Up to then, we have only seen a scratched fragment of the 1970s Queen video. The answer was deafening.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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