Freddie Mercury, the legend, may as well have invented rock flair, and his fist-pumping anthems play just as well in a theatre as at Live Aid. But this is a musical where story, plot, and character development hold just as much sway as music. And We Will Rock You did not exactly rock me.
Here’s the plot: In the future, the Internet morphs into a “Big Brother”-esque entity that wipes out Rock ‘n’ Roll. Youth are now controlled by an unstoppable, ubiquitous force known as GlobalSoft, which brainwashes the rebel and free-spiritedness out of anyone who dares defy them.
Luckily, Galileo (Brian Justin Crum) and his gal pal Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis) escape from the clutches of the Killer Queen (Jacqueline B. Arnold), head of Globalsoft and her henchman Khashoggi (P.J Griffith) to join the Bohemians—a band of ruffians still fighting the man and searching for “Rock.” Led by Buddy(Ryan Knowles), the Bohemians seek the “Dreamer” who they believe can show them the “Rhapsody” and reignite a rock rebellion that leads to ultimate freedom.
The show pulls from classic moments in pop culture, mimicking some of the best of 1970’s and 1980’s. At times, I felt like I had been sucked into Tron, Xanadau, the Thunderdome (as in Mad Max) or even a Great White music video. These bothered me less than the cheap jokes made about American Idol or dialogue that consisted of song title after song title.
Both Crum and Lewis have phenomenal voices—and their numbers have chutzpah befitting the music of Queen. When they cross paths with the Bohemians, the show comes into it’s own, finally manifesting into something beyond a mish-mash of recycled materials from the beloved classics mentioned above.
Buddy believes he has the key to finding rock ‘n’ roll—a worn out VHS tape he’s unsure how to unlock. He has a motorbike, a statue of Freddie, and a merry band of followers that have re-christened themselves with the monikers of stars past. Britney Spears (Jared Zirilli) and Oz (as in Osbourne, played by Erika Peck) are represented. And in disclosing all their names and their “weapons” with which they will annihilate GlobalSoft, the Bohemians are funny, visceral, and wonderful to watch. Their scenes make the show.
WE WILL ROCK YOU
Closes June 8, 2014
513 13th Street NW
Tickets: $53 – $73
Details and Tickets
Ruby Lewis, too, as a sarcastic chick hell-bent on retaining individuality, imbues the musical with snark that helps build palpable chemistry with Galileo, culminating into a romance that can only be described as opposites attracting.
I love Queen, and for that, I did not dislike this show. But it starts on a low note, and ends with much more resonance that I thought possible from the opening credits reminiscent of Star Wars (a big screen, words flying at the audience).
There are two types of cult classics: those that are genuinely good (acting, writing, directing) but too bizarre as to satisfy the mass public (think Donnie Darko, Memento, Requiem For A Dream, Dazed and Confused) and those that are just bad but kitschy enough and absurd enough to be amusing (Rocky Horror, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Hairspray).
We Will Rock You, the Musical by Queen and Ben Elton, falls into that latter category.
Consume it with cocktails – there’s a handy bar in the lobby – and We Will Rock You will go from bad to awesome (as opposed from terrible to decent while sober). I imagine one day youth will be packing into midnight showings across America with pink mohawks and overflowing Red Solo Cups, waving their lighters in homage to the greatest rock band that ever lived.
We Will Rock You . Music and Lyrics by Queen; Story and Script by Ben Elton; Directed by Ben Elton . Featuring Brian Justin Crum (Galileo), Ruby Lewis (Scaramouche) and Jacqueline B. Arnold (Killer Queen), P.J. Griffith (Khashoggi), Erica Peck (Oz), Jared Zirilli (Brit), and Ryan Knowles (Buddy) with Saccha Dennis, Jessica Crouch, Suzanna Dupree, Brooke Morrison, Stephanie Sy, Todd Adamson, Danny Balkwill, Alex DeLeo,Daniel Greenberg, Nathan Keen, Daniel Kermidas, Ryan Koss, Brooke Morrison, Corey Mosello, Jennifer Mote, Jennifer Noble, and Kasey Walker.
BAND: Nate Patten (Musical Director/Conductor), Brandon Ethridge (Assistant Conductor, Keyboards), Emily Marshall (Keyboards), Tristan Avakian and Bob Wegner (Guitar), Mike Cohen (Bass), David Stevens (Percussion), Danny Young (Drums) and John Miller (Music Coordinator).
PRODUCTION: Mark Fisher (Original Production Designer), Willie Williams (Lighting Designer, Video Director), Mark Fisher (Video Director), Bobby Aiten (Sound Designer), Tim Goodchild (Costume Designer), John ‘Jack’ Curtin (Hair and Make-up Designer), Ric Lipson (Associate Scenic Designer), David Newell (Associate Costume Designer), Mike Dixon (Music Supervisor), Brian May (Music Supervisor), Roger Taylor (Music Supervisor), Ben Neafus (Production Manager), Melissa Chacon (Production Stage Manager), Jamey Jennings (Company Manager), Duncan Stewart CSA (Casting), Allied Live (Tour Press and Marketing), The Road Company (Tour Booking), Jim Beach (Queen Management), Seth Wenig (Executive Producer), Gentry & Associates and Guy Jordan Heard (General Manager), Tracey Flye (Associate Director and Associate Choreographer), and Arlene Phillips (Musical Staging and Choreographer) . Presented at the National Theatre . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.