BWW Reviews: 5th Ave's WE WILL ROCK YOU Rocks - But is that Enough?
Sometimes jukebox musicals need to stay in the jukebox. There are some exceptions where it works. When it's a good review like "Smokey Joe's Café" or when there's a fun book like "Mamma Mia". But when you take the songs of a classic rock band (such as Queen) and jam them into a completely contrived and nonsensical, thread thin plot the result (as with "We Will Rock You" currently at the 5th Avenue Theatre) is a barely entertaining mish mash of songs that left me less entertained and more embarrassed for those involved.
Now I love me some Queen. I'm a little too young to have been aware of them in their hay day but like many others discovered them after their run as their enduring songs continue to live on. Which is why I feel they deserve better than the show they got. A show where we're in a not so distant future and people live their lives online (not so different from now) and because of this, rock and roll has been outlawed. (And there's the main plot hole because what's on the Internet but lots and lots of music.) So when a hunky idealistic dreamer, Galileo (Brian Justin Crum) who keeps hearing the lyrics from long dead rockers meets another outcast Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis), the two set out to escape the clutches of the all powerful Killer Queen (Jacqueline B. Arnold) and find other rebels who want to bring back rock. And how will they do this? Um, play music. Yeah, that's ultimately what drives the bad guys away, music. But then we've had music through out the whole show including from the bad guys. See, plot hole.
And if this ridiculous story filled with so much bad, one repeated joke (how many times can we mention that the male leader of the rebels goes by the name Britney Spears?), sitcom humor and clunky exposition laden dialog from book writer Ben Elton weren't bad enough, but then they take these wonderful Queen songs and force them into the narrative often times changing the lyrics to try and make them fit. For example, they take the title song from the movie "Flash Gordon" and bastardize it so it's now all about giving the captured rebels electro shock therapy. Or how about Killer Queen singing "Fat Bottomed Girls" because, well I'm still not certain why she was singing it other than to check that iconic tune off the list. Did no one listen to the lyrics of the songs while trying to write the show? They're all quite narrative to begin with. And Elton couldn't come up with a story that fit in with those narratives? I mean he's even got characters names Galileo and Scaramouche but "Bohemian Rhapsody" (the thing all the bohemian rockers are striving for in the story by the way) isn't even performed until the end of the show as an after thought encore.
The cast does what they can. In fact they amp their energy and intent up to about a 17 in order to try and give this story some punch. Crum and Lewis certainly have incredible voices worthy of Freddie Mercury and they completely shred any numbers given to them. Arnold too has a gorgeous voice but doesn't seem as invested in playing the villain in this over the top melodrama. But I have to mention Ryan Knowles who not only lent some incredible pipes to his numbers but some delicious comedic timing and heart to his character making him completely "ROCK". But even the infectious energy of this amazing cast can't polish away the stench of this turd try as they may.
The show is a somewhat fun ride but ultimately weighed down with such a horrible book and bastardized songs that it just feels insulting. Queen deserves better and smarter as do audiences, which is why I give "We Will Rock You" a NAH with my three letter rating system. Others may have enjoyed it but I just found it not worth the effort.
"We Will Rock You" performs at the 5th Avenue Theatre through July 13th. For tickets or information contact the 5th Avenue box office at 206-625-1900 or visit them online at www.5thavenue.org.