REVIEW: Queen musical 'We Will Rock You' is a thrilling riff on pop culture
- Credit: Johan Persson
"We’ve got 24 awesome world-class singers and they’re better than you so don’t even try" - that's the beckoning voiceover from Ben Elton ahead of the curtain rising on his musical 'We Will Rock You', which is at the New Theatre in Peterborough until this weekend.
He’s right: it’s impossible to match, let alone compete, with this cast of powerhouse vocalists, who bring Queen's back catalogue to life with ease.
But, rather than shoehorning in songs by the iconic rock group, each of their countless classics helps to tell the story and drive the narrative forward; the scene for 'Another One Bites The Dust' is paired perfectly with glitchy Space Invader visuals and clips from violent video games.
Far from just a tribute show, what ensues for the next two hours and 40 minutes (including interval) is a thrilling riff on the pop culture of the last half-century; in fact, all of the biggest music icons of the past five decades (alive and dead) get a namedrop (including a male and punk Britney Spears).
The whole production is extremely cleverly done, too: set far in the future on the iPlanet, cyberspace clones reside in Globalsoft but there are two fittingly-named rebel Bohemian protagonists, Galileo Figaro and Scaramush, who want to break the rules and rock.
The fact that Galileo Figaro seems to suffer from musical Tourette’s and hears random words and sounds in his head is a clever narrative device as it means he can randomly sprout out surreal names of pop and rock classics at any given moment.
Taking being controlled by social media and huge corporations to the extreme, it’s a vision of a music-less dystopia - and the villains are intent on keeping it that way.
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Gleaming inspiration from science fiction epics like Star Wars, the theatrical is more conceptual than expceted.
But there are also plenty of laugh-out loud moments (especially Sir Cliff Richard's mispronunciation of television and video-tape, and an on-the-nose nod to using “protection post-pandemic).
At the heart of the show, of course, is a faultless live band and24 impressive vocal performances, including the hypersexual and stunning yet unhinged femme fatale Killer Queen (a show-stealing performance from a performer who could give Christina Aguilera a run for her money when it comes to vocal range).
Like any rock gig, there’s time for a very special encore where audience participation is fully encouraged.
And, after the opening night ends with not one but two standing ovations, one thing is clear: rock will live forever.
'We Will Rock You' is at the New Theatre in Peterborough until Saturday June 18. Book tickets online.