Guaranteed to blow your mind and your senses, We Will Rock You appeals to the rebel in all of us. Written and directed by Ben Elton with music and lyrics by Queen, We Will Rock You will astonish you with spectacle and trigger your sense of nostalgia. The show features mesmerizing light displays and a barrage of technical effects. The end result is a performance that is more of a concert than a musical theater experience. A youthful and vibrant cast embodies the rock and roll culture and often invites an exuberant audience to sing and clap along with their favorite Queen songs.
In the opening sequence, the audience is introduced to a futuristic world named iPlanet. Real life, real love and rock music are things of the past. The ruling Killer Queen of GlobalSoft Corporation expects conformity, and punishes those who resist. An uprising is set in motion when a rebel steals a videotape containing the lost secrets of rock and roll and two young Bohemians agree to run away together to escape the societal decrees they do not wish to follow. The plot is slightly loose, but the dialogue contains many witty references to classic rock. Some of the funnier moments occur when characters openly ridicule contemporary pop music from Katy Perry to American Idol.
The show’s video and light design feature prominently in almost every number. Video Directors Mark Fisher and Willie Williams supply a pulsating, constantly changing projector backdrop featuring various images including avatars, scrolling numbers, the GlobalSoft logo and clips from 1980s video games. Williams also acts as the lighting designer and provides an extravagant design display that furthers the rock concert vibe. Williams floods the stage with strobe lights and colored pinwheels. Occasionally the lighting is slightly overpowering and can distract from the movement on stage. Most of the lighting choices are very creative, particularly several subtle switches in coloring that completely change the color of the costumes onstage. Sound design is handled smoothly by Bobby Aitken. Although the show imitates the rock concert experience, the volume levels allow the audience to hear both the singers and the instruments.
The costumes are the perfect expression of the rock and roll culture and would fit nicely into the “Rock Band” costume options. Costume Designer Tim Goodchild uses an impressive array of colors and styles for the various characters. Goodchild’s clothes the Bohemians in colorful and distressed costumes. He uses denim, leather and ripped fishnets liberally, but he also includes some bright colors and a punk ballet tutu for members of the ensemble. The costumes for the conformist GaGa Kids are particularly brilliant: white flecked with neon colors, sterile and a frightening combination of cheerleader uniform and Gap commercial. John Curtin’s hair and make-up design enhance the overall effect. Several of the Bohemians sport colorful dreadlocks, and the Killer Queen’s gravity-defying red mohawk is truly a sight to behold. For the backup singers in “Somebody to Love,” Curtain gives each of the GaGa Kids elaborate braided hairdos, with a different color for each singer.
Choreographer Arlene Phillips stages several high-energy numbers including “Play the Game” and “Fat Bottomed Girls.” The latter is especially sensual as it showcasing the Killer Queen presiding over a bevy of lingerie-clad Ladies in Waiting. “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” feature lively dancing and creative partnering. There were several numbers which could have benefited from additional staging or choreography, particularly “Radio Ga Ga” and “Somebody to Love.”
The story centers on Galileo (Brian Justin Crum), a young Bohemian who hears the lyrics of forbidden and forgotten classic rock songs in his head. Crum and Saramouche (Ruby Lewis) create a dynamic connection as outcasts who become allies. Both Galileo and Saramouche are pursued by Khashoggi (P.J. Griffith) acting on orders from the Killer Queen (Jacqueline P. Arnold). They encounter the underground Bohemians including Oz (Erica Peck), Brit (Jared Zirilli) and Buddy (Ryan Knowles). The entire ensemble performs well: singing, dancing and rocking with the fervor of young Bohemians. In the duet “A Kind of Magic,” Arnold’s powerful and enchanting voice mixes with Griffith’s resonant, charismatic voice and provides one of the least unexpected moments in the show. Peck has an incredible singing voice and she brings a feisty and zealous energy to the character of Oz.
As Oz’s lover Brit, Zirilli is goofy, charming and dedicated to the Bohemian cause. Knowles adds to the comic relief as the clueless, well-intentioned Buddy who is obsessed with cultural artifacts from a bygone era. The standout performer is Lewis as Saramouche. With an amazing voice, wonderful physicality and a deadpan comic timing, she embodies the character of Saramouche and invites the audience to view the unfolding story from her perspective.
We Will Rock You is a delightful indulgence for those who remember Queen and those who believe that rock and roll never dies.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and thirty minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
We Will Rock You on Tour website.