Review: WE WILL ROCK YOU at Downtown Cabaret Theatre

featuring the music of Queen

By: Jun. 01, 2024
Review: WE WILL ROCK YOU at Downtown Cabaret Theatre
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On Friday, May 31st, I had the pleasure of seeing the phenomenal musical WE WILL ROCK YOU at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, CT.   This is neither a tribute concert to Queen nor a biography of their lives.  Rather, the concept is similar to Mamma Mia! in that the show is a fictional story built around the music of one specific music group, in this case, Queen.  Playwright Ben Elton, however, has written a storyline that digs much deeper.  Director Andrea Pane, with Assistant Director Carly Jurman, Musical Director Mark Ceppetelli, and Choreographer Olivia Rivera bring out the best in this first-rate cast! 

This is a musical comedy, set in a fictional future where rock n’ roll has been eliminated and banned.  Only digitally downloaded music approved by the tyrannical totalitarian central government may be heard.  That element of this storyline, a future under a government that banned rock n’ roll, is a similar premise to what the Who had originally conceived for their follow-up to Tommy, that follow-up project having been abandoned with the intended songs appearing on the Who’s Next album, but in the absence of a cohesive storyline linking the songs, since that story was abandoned.   When I first read what WE WILL ROCK YOU was about, I got very excited that I would get to see a musical with a storyline similar to that which the Who had abandoned.  WE WILL ROCK YOU delivers in a major way, far exceeding my high expectations!  

The main protagonists are Galileo and Scaramouche, both outcasts from society, who get arrested, essentially for being different.  Scaramouche doesn’t dress in conformity with the other women.  Galileo hears musical lyrics in his head, yet fails to discern those that come from true rock n’ roll from those that come from products of the record industry.    Killer Queen and Khashoggi are the central antagonists.  They want to keep rock n’ roll out of society.  Other rebels looking to find the keys to unlock rock n’ roll, in defiance of the totalitarian government, are Brit, Oz, and Buddy, who all took their names from who their research indicated were legends of rock n’ roll.  

The stellar cast includes Chris Balestriere as Galileo, Corinne Marshall as Scaramouche, Ashley McLeod as Killer Queen, JoJo DeVellis as Khashoggi, Anthony Laszlo as Brit, MayTae Harge as Oz, Thomas Sullivan as Buddy, and a highly talented ensemble that includes Kelly Blute, Ana Rosa Sforza, Candice Sisbarro, Caroline DiGiulio, Celina Kestecher, Liz Buonicore, Ryan Romero, Tyler Panek, Zariya Paige, and Zoe Anderson.

The entire cast has excellent stage chemistry and radiates positive energy throughout the audience.  They seem like they are enjoying performing their roles as much as the audience is enjoying seeing them perform.  They make various entrances and exits through the audience, somewhat breaking the fourth wall, as the audience sings along.  Regardless of the show’s intent, there is no way the audience isn’t going to pound their tables twice, clap once, and then repeat over and over when “We Will Rock You,” the song, is performed. 

The show is enhanced by a talented live band that includes Mark Ceppetelli, Roger Post, Chris McNellis, Max Caserta, and Nicklas Dickerson.  The guitar is tuned to a Brian May timbre, enhancing the authenticity.

This show has numerous stand-out musical numbers.  Corinne Marshall’s powerful vocals shine on “Somebody to Love.”  Anthony Laszlo and MayTae Harge bring strong energy on “I Want It All.”  My favorite song, which is my favorite Queen song, was “Bohemian Rhapsody,” starting with the strong vocals of Chris Balestriere, and becoming a full ensemble number that the entire audience gets into!  This cast totally succeeds in pulling off such a challenging musical number to perform!

The brilliant writing of this intriguing storyline leaves us to ponder, “Is this the real life?  Is this just fantasy?"  The corrupt government in this musical plants chips into people’s heads to keep them under control.  While that is certainly a possibility for the future, a sinister plan that is likely in the works, today, that part is still fantasy.  The more subtle methods, however, of revisionist history and misinformation reinforced through propaganda are also employed by the antagonists in this musical, as such tactics are used in real life today.

In WE WILL ROCK YOU, the protagonists have been given a seriously distorted view of rock n’ roll and how it disappeared.  The untrue claim is made that rock n’ roll was killed by digital music downloads and talent shows like The X Factor.  It is common for people, organizations, and governments with evil agendas to scapegoat the innocent, in order to draw the spotlight away from the harm caused by their own sinister actions.  That finger-pointing is carefully calculated, reinforced through propaganda, and phrased in such a way designed to emotionally manipulate the weak-minded who are too lazy to do real research.  In reality, however, digital music downloads and talent shows like The X Factor were not prevalent in mainstream America in the mid 1990s when the mainstream popularity of rock n’ roll breathed its last breath, it’s final chorus being, “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.”

WE WILL ROCK YOU, while centering on the music of Queen, also contains dialogue that either directly or indirectly references many other real rock n’ roll icons like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard,  the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie, the Eagles, Bad Company, and Nirvana.  The second huge piece of misinformation believed by the protagonists, however, is that the Spice Girls, Britney Spears, and other such manufactured products of the record industry constitute “rock n’ roll,” when their popularity, resulting from youth conformity to MTV’s sinister political agenda, is in reality what destroyed real rock n’ roll’s mainstream popularity.  Those inferior musical genres still managed to weasel themselves under the larger umbrella of “rock n’ roll,” despite being imposters that replaced and destroyed real rock n’ roll.  You can’t successfully resurrect something with the very things that killed it in the first place.  WE WILL ROCK YOU seems to also be trying to point out that if future generations receive their information from sources that care more about promoting an evil political agenda than promoting good music, people in those future generations, like the character Brit in this show, might be mislead to actually believe that Britney Spears not merely constitutes rock n’ roll, but was the greatest ever in that genre. 

Beyond the fact that it is awesome and has reached multiple generations, why was the music of Queen chosen to tell this story and make these points?  A reason could possibly be that one of the earliest signs of the impending doom of rock n’ roll involved Queen and came in 1992.  “Bohemian Rhapsody,” despite being from 1975, had entered the American music charts once again, delighting a whole new generation, after it appeared in the movie Wayne’s World.  It only peaked at #2, however.  Had other songs charting at the time, such as “November Rain,” “Under The Bridge,” “Come As You Are,” or “Tears in Heaven,” beaten it out, even one who disagrees may at least accept that real rock n’ roll beat real rock n’ roll.  It was none of those songs, however.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” was beaten by a song called, “Jump,” and I don’t mean Van Halen’s 1984 hit.  I mean a hip-hop song by a manufactured pre-teen group called Kris Kross.  How was that even possible?  Was it a fluke?  Well, here we are more than thirty years later waiting for rock n’ roll to come back.  Clearly, the demand is there.  Those familiar with Little Steven’s Underground Garage on Sirius XM also know that the supply is there.  Why isn’t the mainstream media promoting it or even making the public aware that it exists?  How much, on those grounds, does the mainstream media resemble the antagonists of WE WILL ROCK YOU? 

So, how does WE WILL ROCK YOU end?  Do the protagonists think they succeeded only to find out that all they did was revive what killed rock n’ roll in the first place?  Does the Killer Queen succeed in snuffing out their rebellion?  Do Galileo and Scaramouche become romantically involved with each other, and stay romantically involved, in spite of their banter?  Come to the show to find out!

For mature audiences (the innuendo in this show is more than just the musical number by that name), I highly recommend WE WILL ROCK YOU, which is scheduled to continue to run through June 30, 2024.  For times and tickets, please go to https://dtcab.com/show/wewillrockyou/.




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