BWW Reviews: WE WILL ROCK YOU Fails to Impress
There is not a lot to say about We Will Rock You. The plot is bizarre, the characters and dialogue are weak, and only the great music keeps it afloat. We Will Rock You opened on the West End over 10 years ago, and clearly the music sustained it until its recent closing. Now on a US tour, audiences across the country will be given the chance to judge for themselves whether We Will Rock You can become a champion on this side of the pond.
Set in the future - and perhaps on a different planet, though that was not entirely clear - We Will Rock You uses the music of Queen to tell the story of a group of Bohemians fighting to bring back rock and roll, which has been banned on the iPlanet. iPlanet, controlled by corporate giant Globalsoft, is a place where humans have usernames instead of actual names and life exists only online. Humans are simply sheep, following the orders of the unseen corporate executives. The band of bohemians follows clues from historical sources (video tapes, etc.) to a hidden guitar that will topple Globalsoft, letting rock and roll prevail. If that sounds bizarre as you read it, it is even more so playing out in front of you on the stage.
The story and the dialogue fail the music of Queen. Their songbook is not well served by the book of the musical. Everything involving the Killer Queen, who appears to be some kind of dominatrix, could be cut from the show even though she belts some of the hits. The audience can easily deduce that the all-powerful corporation is stamping out independent thought. The glimpses into the Killer Queen's bizarre sex dungeon do not serve the show and are completely unnecessary. The dialogue is just as bad as the story. Clunky and uninventive, the characters slog around on stage speaking words that are not engaging or natural in any way. Of course, given the direction the writers went with the story, it's perhaps not a surprise that the dialogue follows suit.
The actors are acceptable but not exceptional. The leads, Brian Justin Crum and Ruby Lewis, clearly have a good set of pipes but it felt like both would be better served by something other than the music of Queen. Lewis hits it out of the park on "Somebody to Love" but several other songs are not as strong. Ryan Knowles, as Buddy the comedic sidekick, delivers the one-liners with great timing. Knowles' character is easily the most fun.
If there is a bright spot in this crazy, warped show it is the band. The members of the band are fantastically talented. Housed on stage in cages above the actors, it is unfortunate that during most of the show they are hidden behind backdrops instead of put on display.
Die-hard Queen fans will enjoy the chance to hear the music performed live, but this is not a show that has crossover appeal to musical theater audiences. Set your expectations appropriately. Go to the show if what you desire is a something more akin to a decent show from a Queen cover band with strange interludes in between the greatest hits.
From This Author Brooke Bridenstine