The “jukebox” musical has become a contentious issue in theatre. For some, they represent a dumbing down, where creativity has been stifled for shallow money-making machinations. For others, they offer the simple pleasures of a fun night out. As one of the first “jukebox” musicals, recently celebrating its tenth anniversary, We Will Rock You is at the centre of this dichotomy.
The show transports the audience, through the music of Queen and spectacular rock concert lighting, to a computerised future where rock music is mere myth. It’s safe to say, though, that We Will Rock You hasn’t aged particularly well. The plot, which borrows heavily from The Matrix amongst other sources, has never been well received and is instead just a vehicle for the music. Though some of Ben Elton’s script has been tweaked and updated for current audiences, many of the jokes remain as cringeworthy as ever and the constant referencing quickly becomes tired.
It’s the staging, though, that most shows its age. What once was a real spectacle now seems outdated in comparison to recent West End additions like Rock of Ages or Ghost: The Musical. Rock of Ages in particular provides stiff competition with a similarly camp tone but fresher feel, though the music pales in comparison to Queen. Here, the stage is often bare besides the performers and the computerised graphics seem primitive, having not changed over the last decade.
What also hasn’t changed is the show’s emphasis on music and performance which is as awesome as ever. Brenda Edwards has been playing Killer Queen for some time on the show’s tour and here offers a suitably solid vocal performance. The characterisation of the four leads may be clichéd, but Scott Monello (Galileo), Lauren Varnham (Scaramouche), Rachel John (Meat) and Wayne Robinson (Brit) display admirable vocal strength in the varied mix of ballads and heavy rock numbers. John’s rendition of No One But You was particularly powerful. Still, it’s pertinent that the band is given the final bow – these musicians are the real stars of the show.
We Will Rock You is by no means a groundbreaking piece of theatre, but it’s certainly a fun night out for even the hardiest of West End stalwarts. Cracks and wrinkles may be apparent, but the music is timeless, and that will forever be the show’s biggest asset.
Submitted by guest blogger @ed_nights
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