BWW Review: WE WILL ROCK YOU is a Rock-Theatre Extravaganza!
Imagine you are in a venue with hundreds of people packed around you, swaying and singing along to the music of one of the greatest rock bands of all time. You turn to your left and bob your head to the beat of "I Want It All" and later on, scream the lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody" with the woman on your right. This was just a snapshot of my experience seeing WE WILL ROCK YOU - a musical featuring the music of Queen and Ben Elton at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on January 11th. On it's North American tour including more than 60 cities, WE WILL ROCK YOU played in Vancouver for 2 days before continuing onto the rest of its tour stops across Canada.
The plot of this musical was definitely different than a lot of the musicals I've seen in the past. Taking place hundreds of years into the future, we quickly learned that things were very regulated: music, clothing, ways of thinking, etc. The Earth was renamed as iPlanet and was controlled by a large corporation run by a woman called the "Killer Queen." Rock music was lost in the past as digital computer music dominated in the present. Throughout the musical, we followed the 2 main characters (and rebels of the current scene) Galileo and Scaramouche as they joined the Bohemians on their journey to uncover musical instruments and rock n' roll.
The plot of WE WILL ROCK YOU was heavy loaded at the beginning of the musical. If you didn't pay attention, it could have led to confusion as the story progressed. Going in a more futuristic/ modernized direction with the plot was very unique and seemed like it was made to appeal more to younger audiences. The story allowed for many humorous moments, nods to music icons, and flashy costumes that engaged the audience; however, this direction had the potential to be a hit or miss with audience members. People who enjoy traditional musicals with relatable plots that reflect real-life situations may not find this musical appealing. I could also see it potentially being confusing, hard to follow, and/or slightly cheesy for some theatregoers. Despite some criticism with the plot of the show, the music part of the show will definitely appeal to all audiences.
This production did a very good job with its musical numbers. Being a jukebox musical featuring the music of Queen and Ben Elton, it wasn't hard to get the crowd pumped up and excited for each song. The whole WE WILL ROCK YOU experience was like going to both a musical and a concert. Cast members would break out into song; however, the numbers were of concert-style caliber and often encouraged audience participation. Some of my favorite numbers included "I Want To Break Free", "Somebody To Love", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", and "Another One Bites The Dust." The most powerful numbers of the night: "We Are The Champions", "We Will Rock You", and (of course) "Bohemian Rhapsody" were absolutely show stopping. What made these numbers truly outstanding were the vocals by Trevor Coll (Galileo) and Keri Kelly (Scaramouche). Both cast members left the crowd speechless with their vocal ranges and the energy in their voices with each song!
Costumes designed by Angela Dale were a standout piece of the show. In one of the opening numbers, "Radio Ga Ga", we met the Ga Ga kids in their flashy multicolored outfits reflecting the futuristic direction of the scene. As we met the villains, we encountered flashy jackets, robes, and dresses that really stole your attention on stage. One of my favorite outfits was the large dress that Krystle Chance (Killer Queen) wore during "Fat Bottomed Girls." In addition to the costumes, I would also like to give praise to the 5 -person band that provided the music for the show. Comprised of Scott Henderson, Sam Coulson, Lisa Jacobs, Kyle McKearney, and Chad Melchert, I really appreciated the ways they were able to play Queen and Ben Elton's music so well together. The virtuosity each musician displayed with his or her instrument was truly impeccable. For a majority of the show, the band stayed above the stage area on a riser, but came down to interact with the cast at the end of the show. I thought that this really showed how the music evolved by the end of the production and displayed how music had the ability to connect everyone together!
WE WILL ROCK YOU was a very different musical than the ones I've seen in the past. With its futuristic plot line, I thought it was very refreshing to see something so unique and distinctive from the rest. What I really liked about it overall was the music and vocal talent from the cast. Any night out involving the music from Queen is a good night!
WE WILL ROCK YOU presented by Annerin Theatricals will be making its next North American tour stop in Dawson Creek, BC on January 15th and Medicine Hat, Alberta on January 17th and 18th. To buy tickets and for more information on tour stops visit: http://www.queenonline.com/wwry/na_tour.
Photo Credit: Randy Feere, 2020