The Killer Queen (Casey Donovan) is, well, a Killer Queen – but she also likes Fat Bottomed Girls. Is one such girl, in fact. When she’s not indulging, she’s doing what she can to make sure that all the music on the iPlanet is Computer Recorded Autotune Pop (or CRAP). The last thing she wants is rock n’ roll undermining her reign, promoting unwieldy individuals.
It’s from this oppression that dreamer Galileo (Gareth Keegan) wants to Break Free, and free thinker Scaramouche (Erin Clare) has trouble finding Somebody to Love. Together they seek out the Bohemians, a guerrilla faction of rock n’ roll devotees in search of their Rhapsody, which may or may not be in the place of Champions.
It is in the place of Champions though; we know it is. This show was 60 per cent written before anyone knew it was a show, and that’s a conservative estimate. The poor boy dreamer was not Galileo, but a man named Freddy Mercury, who, with Queen, was constantly evading the parameters and definitions of rock n’ roll. He was singing from multiples genres, a multiple person almost, each song a dramatic turning point. When you line those ducks up for a musical, it’s easy to shoot them down. And quite fun.
Radio Ga Ga, the opening floor-shaker by the ensemble, becomes an arresting wall of voices, wall of claps, wall of kicks. I’ve seen a bunch of producer John Frost’s musical imports over the years, each of varying success. Regardless, the ensemble is filled with familiar faces who always deliver, taking little of the glory.
That said, the leads have some big voices. Ms Clare’s rendition of Somebody to Love rattles the heart, and Ms Donovan gives Fat Bottomed Girls a sultry attitude. But those particular numbers are also propped on the ensemble’s piercing back-up. At times, with just one or two leads singing in the foreground, there is little imagination about how to use the stage around them. The choreography in these scenes is perfunctory, as is the screen in the background (excepting the epileptic slipstream of video-gaming for Another One Bites the Dust). What’s left are futile comparisons to Mercury.
Though the show lulls in these moments, and in the unnecessary bulking of a secondary plot (which should be even more secondary), it’s never for long enough to lose its audience. They rocked out, there’s no denying it. Ben Elton, mercifully, never takes the story too seriously, filling the spaces with his trademark, anarchic goofiness.
It always helps to have a great band playing at an ear-ringing 11.
Brian Mannix, as Bohemian elder Buddy, is a great compliment to that. Mr Keegan may be the show’s star, but the former Uncanny X-Men frontman is its heart. The stench of rock n’ roll hangs like a red mist over his ashy mop. He was untouchably young not so long ago, and that glory is easily remembered with a last minute singalong of Bohemian Rhapsody – an anthem for the unpolished, unmarketable and irresistible.
We Will Rock You is currently being performed at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre every Tuesday to Sunday until June 26. It will then tour around most capitol cities of Australia. For more information and tickets head here.
The reviewer attended the performance on May 5.
Photographs by Nathan Atkins.