- OnStage Australia Critic
I remember seeing ‘We Will Rock You’ the first time it came to Melbourne in 2003 when our drama class successfully convinced our teacher we needed to see it as a very educational excursion. I loved it then, and 13 years later I still love it, but my perspective as an audience member has completely changed. I still sat there in awe of the performances and production values, but as the obsessive musical theatre fan I am (and so many of you obviously are) I couldn’t help but spy certain things with my little critical theatre eye.
For instance, when I first saw the show in 2003, and having subsequently listened to the cast recording over the years it wasn’t until yesterday I realised the show doesn’t really have a proper ending. No spoiler alerts for those who haven’t seen it, but honestly the show is building towards something the entire time and the ending is so sudden and there’s no sense of resolution. But I think that’s just because of the type of musical it is.
It is not a musical, or sorry a ‘Rock Theatrical’ (Brian May and Roger Taylor dislike the term musical theatre), for people who like musicals, it is a jukebox musical for people who like Queen, and rock music and want that experience of hearing their music live. It gives the people what they want, what they came to see. Rock gods, flashing lights, big hair, big voices, big guitar riffs, sexy costumes, and audience singalongs.
I now feel the same way about ‘We Will Rock You’ as I did about ‘King Kong’. It isn’t designed to please us theatre types, it is designed to draw non-theatre people into our theatre web with big flashy shows which focus on the ‘spectacular’. Entice them to seeing live theatre with the promise of characters or songs they know and love. Theatre isn’t weird and scary, it is totally relatable to you.
While it is titled ‘We Will Rock You The Musical by Queen and Ben Elton’ what the audience experiences is more of a traditional 70s/80s rock concert mashed up with a Lady Gaga performance. It is highly engaging, energetic and enthralling and is so much fun for the audience, and looks like so much fun for the performers and the band.
I loved the way in which the band were incorporated into the show more than traditional shows. Music and musicians are essential elements of the story, and acknowledging them throughout the show (and giving them their own bow during the curtain call) was a great way to pay respect.
For those unfamiliar with ‘We Will Rock You’ it is ‘a futurist adventure set in the year 2350, a time when live music is banned on earth’. Set to the music of Queen the show sees our main characters Galileo Figaro and Scaramouche (there are plenty of artist, band, song, and lyric references throughout the show, the character names are just the beginning) fighting against life on the iPlanet where everything is controlled by Globalsoft and kids are told what to wear, eat, and listen to by computer screens. They join the Bohemians who are underground rebels fighting to find ‘The Rhapsody’ and bring back rock and roll! But of course there are obstacles like Killer Queens, and laser prisons and that crazy little thing called love getting in the way. Think Fifth Element meets Rock of Ages?!
It is scary to think that when this show first premiered in London in 2002 the idea of lives being lived online and dictated by tiny computer screens was just a fictional idea, but in 2016 is actually a reality. I saw so many ushers walking up to audience members throughout the show to ask them to stop taking photos or videos (but audience etiquette is a whole different issue for a different time).
The message of rebellion and staying true to yourself and continuing to create in this world is one which will always be relevant, and if ‘We Will Rock You’ can hide their message in a musical and deliver it to audiences who normally wouldn’t go see a musical then I’m all for it!
The show I saw was the first preview performance on a Sunday evening, and having already done a charity Dress Rehearsal earlier that day, and no doubt been in tech all week having just transferred the show from Brisbane the entire cast were PHENONMENAL. The show opened They had so much precision and energy you could feel it radiate throughout the entire theatre. And believe me, the Regent Theatre is no small space, it was the only theatre big enough to fit King Kong and has a capacity of over 2000.
For me the standouts of the show were Jaz Flowers as Oz and Thern Reynolds as Brit, two crazy but beautiful bohemians we meet along the way. I have so many words to describe these two, but most of them are expletives so I’ll just use one word. Incredible. They were both so engaging, their energy was insane, their voices were brilliant, and anytime they were on stage you could not stop watching them. You could tell they had so much fun creating these characters and truly loved playing them. I usually get a little bit weepy listening to “No-One But You” which is sung by Oz as it is just such a beautiful song, but the emotion you could see and feel behind Flowers’ version had me doing the subtle ‘my face is itchy I’m not madly trying to wipe away tears’ face rub.
I have to give mad props to Head of Wigs Fran Rauseo and her department. Not only did they have the mammoth (and no doubt fun) challenge of creating all the crazy ‘futurist’ and ‘bohemian’ hairstyles but they made sure those wigs weren’t going ANYWHERE even with all the epic choreography and headbanging that goes on in ‘We Will Rock You’.
If you love musicals, or Queen, or fun, or loud music or any combination of these then you should love ‘We Will Rock You’. I nervously took along a Queen fan who hadn’t been exposed to the show before and he was definitely impressed, in fact he was on his feet joining in the standing ovation well before I was!
Unfortunately the tours to Perth and Adelaide have recently been cancelled but ‘We Will Rock You’ is playing at the Regent Theatre until 30th October. Tickets available from http://wewillrockyou.com.au/.