BWW Review: WE WILL ROCK YOU: Part Rock Concert, Part Homage to Queen, Part Warning Of The Dependence On Technology And Part Rediscovery Of Free Expression

Thursday 5th May 2016, Lyric Theatre, Sydney

Cast of WE WILL ROCK YOU with Director/Writer Ben Elton and Producer John Frost (Photo: Jade Kops)

Ben Elton (Writer and Director) has delivered a new incarnation of WE WILL ROCK YOU for Australian audiences to multiple standing ovations. The tribute to the music of Queen, structured around a futuristic fable of the dangers of the internet, technology and corporations enforcing conformity, blends rock concert with musical and showcases young Australian talent.

Erin Clare as Scaramouche and Gareth Keegan as Galileo (Photo: Jeff Busby)

Whilst the plot has not drastically changed from Ben Elton's original vision, the current Australian Tour of WE WILL ROCK YOU takes the advancements in modern technology into account, in particular the rise of smart phones, smart watches, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and all the other social media channels. He has slipped in references to the new technology from misfit Galileo admitting to having zero twitter followers and GlobalSoft's police force carrying out orders by way of their wearable technology.

Jaz Flowers as Oz, Thern Reynolds as Brit, Erin Clare as Scaramouche and Gareth Keegan as Galileo

The storyline follows the standard teenage romance trope of the rather dopey, but good looking "cool" boy who falls for the pretty, intelligent, misfit girl with attitude, who initially shows disinterest in pairing up with him. This love story is layered with the boy, Galileo (Gareth Keegan), hearing phrases of lyrics in his head but not knowing what they mean. At the same time, feisty, cynical loner, in self-made clothes seeks refuge outside of the school following her encounter with the GaGa Girls, a pastel version of "Mean Girls". On the run from GlobalSoft's police force, the Galileo, and the girl he dubs Scaramouche (Erin Clare) discover Bohemians Brit(Thern Reynolds) and Oz (Jaz Flowers) who let them into their quest to rediscover the lost music, Rock and Roll and introduce them to the underworld community of Bohemians that have only heard about Rock and Roll as legend but have no real understanding of the history of the culture.

GaGa Kids and Teachers (Ensemble ) (Photo: Jeff Busby)

Mark Fisher and Stufish Entertainment Architects have created a variety of different "worlds" from the GaGa School Of uniform robotic students, the retro-scifi opulence of GlobalSoft's Killer Queen's kingdom and the gritty dirty underworld of disused parking lots and the Bohemians hideout, Hard Rock Café. For the parts of the iPlanet firmly under GlobalSoft's control, sets are minimalistic with risers adding vertical variety an electronic screen providing the backdrop of avatars, motherboards, and reminders of consumerism and conformity. For the neglected corners of the iPlanet where the Bohemian's roam, the sets are made up of tangible objects, wire fences, empty fuel drums, cinder blocks, detritis of a disposable world, along with a number of items the Bohemians believe relate to the fabled Rock and Roll era of late. The Rock concert feel is rounded out by the live band, visible on the raised platform at the rear of the stage and Willie William's lighting design.

Casey Donovan as Killer Queen and the Yuppies (Ensemble) (Photo: Jeff Busby)

Costume Designer Tim Goodchild has created two distinct worlds. The GaGa Kids are dressed in uniform costumes when viewed at a glance, but each being slightly different, representing the need to conform but wanting to be 'individual', similar to modern society's claim that people are individual but all buying following the fashion that the media and stores are pumping out. Killer Queen's minions, the Yuppies reflect the basis of her cyber empire with black and white interrupted transmission lines, wrist computers and headsets. These are contrasted with the Bohemians, presented in a hotchpotch of clothing from Brit's shredded kilt, Oz's short shorts and corset, and the leather, studs and plaid of the rest of the ensemble. No two are alike and they are presented as unkempt and wild.

Jaz Flowers as Oz, Thern Reynolds as Brit, Erin Clare as Scaramouche and Gareth Keegan as Galileo (Photo: Jeff Busby)

WE WILL ROCK YOU is presented as a send up of stereotypes from the narcissistic supervillan Killer Queen (Casey Donovan), her simpering assistant Khashoggi (Simon Russell), and the aging spaced out hippy rock groupie Buddy (Brian Mannix). The work has a physical humor along with the comic lines, delivered with wonderful timing that sees lyrics from many musical references dropped in to conversation. Inkeeping with Queen's British origins, the Bohemians are presented with English accents, with a couple of Aussie accents slipping in from time to time. Those that conform to the iPlanet and GlobalSoft ethos are presented with American accents, drawing on the origins of Apple, Microsoft and Social Media platforms.

The Bohemians (Ensemble) (Photo: Jeff Busby)

It does however fail to take the opportunity to acknowledge that music made significant progress in terms of diversity with the Bohemian appearing to be paired off by traditional norms and the attitude towards women with the perpetuation of the idea that Scaramouche is Galileo's "baby" and "chick" when she is far and away the more intelligent of the duo. Whilst it is understandable that a story needs to move along rapidly, the turn from Scaramouche's response "I'm Not your Baby", to falling into Galileo's arms is alarming and appears to be meeting mainstream audiences rather than challenging ideas as Rock and Roll does.

Erin Clare as Scaramouche and Gareth Keegan as Galileo (Photo: Jeff Busby)

Gareth Keegan presents an understanding of the lyrics in the context of Galileo's experiences from the confusion over what is happening to him as he is 'possessed' by voices in I Want To Break Free and desire to convince Scaramouche to be his first real friend and make a human connection in You're My Best Friend. He presents the sterotype of the pretty, dumb, accidental hero that relies on his sidekick but is also has a sensitivity as he knows that what Globalsoft is feeding him is wrong and that the voices in his head mean something important, he just isn't sure what.

Erin Clare as Scaramouche (Photo: Jeff Busby)

As Scaramouche, Erin Clare captures the cynical misfit with a wonderful comic timing. Throwing back barbs and put downs with precision. She also has a wonderful voice, belting out a textured Somebody To Love. It is good to see that whilst Scaramouche does seem to be subservient, she regains her confidence by the end of the story, taking charge of the sacred instrument as Clare does confidence better than she does meek and mild.

Casey Donovan gives a delicious performance as Killer Queen. Along with clear, powerful vocal delivery, she adds sass and even sex-kitten to the sinister megalomaniac. She has the comic timing, physicality and authoritarian American accent to give Killer Queen the gravitas that ensures she is feared but also revered by her "Yuppies".

Of the Bohemians, Jaz Flowers stands out with her poignant rendition of No-One But You presented as a the Bohemian's tribute to the legends that died young. She also gets to show her range with the heavier rock numbers like I Want It All.

WE WILL ROCK YOU Australian Tour Cast (Photo: Jeff Busby)

WE WILL ROCK YOU is an energetic, entertaining tribute that will satisfy any Queen or Rock and Roll fan. Accepting that it has been written for a mainstream audience, this is a sweet little love story with a more important message to retain individuality and support live music and ensure that we control our involvement with technology and not vice versa.


Venue: Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star
Season: From 28 April 2016
Performance Times: Tues 7pm, Wed-Sat 8pm, Sat matinee 2pm, Sunday 1pm & 6pm
Price: From $69.90*
Bookings: or 1300 795 267
Groups 8+ call 1300 889 278

Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Season: From 10 July 2016
Performance Times: Tues-Sat 7.30pm, Sat matinee 2pm, Sunday 1pm & 6pm
Price: From $69.90*
Bookings: or phone 136 246
Groups 8+ 07 3840 7466

Venue: Regent Theatre
Season: From 30 August 2016
Performance Times: Tues 7pm, Wed-Sat 8pm, Sat matinee 2pm, Sunday 1pm & 6pm
Price: From $69.90*
Bookings: or phone 1300 111 011
Groups 8+ call 1300 889 278

Venue: Crown Theatre, Burswood
Season: From November 2016

Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: From January 2017

*An additional transaction fee and/or a credit/debit payment processing fee may apply

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From This Author Jade Kops

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