‘We Will Rock You‘ is one of those musicals where audiences that don’t usually visit the theatre flee to get tickets. It conquered London’s Dominion Theatre from 2002 till 2014, making it one of the west end’s longest running shows. It has been years since this show toured, many diehard fans of the show (including myself) have been craving for this musical to return to UK stages. And now FINALLY, there is a re-imagined production touring. I headed along to Edinburgh’s answer to Broadway, The Playhouse for the press evening of this new production to see if it lived up to the legendary original production.
‘We Will Rock You‘ is set in the future where musical instruments are banned, all music is computer generated and produced by Globalsoft. Killer Queen is the CEO of Globalsoft, she has complete control of the world and wants all the human race to remain online. A rebellion group known as the bohemians are searching for “the dreamer”, a man who is supposed to be able to lead them to the lost instruments of a band named Queen. Will normality be restored and music goes back to the way it used to be?
Michael McKell as Buddy (Pop reenvisioned) is hilarious and supplies a great take on this character. Michael delivers this character perfectly, he acknowledges the changes that have been made in regards to the script, then gives us something different yet just as enjoyable if not more so than the original character. This is thanks to the brilliant comic timing and gritty spin on the character. Adam Strong supplies out of this world vocals and devilish charm as Khashoggi. At first it takes a period of adjustment to Adam’s rather grand take on this character, then you really enjoy the new presence and strength this character has, especially singing wise. Adam’s vocal technique and power during ‘It’s a kind of magic’ is simply jaw dropping, a different level from what we have seen before.
Ian McIntosh delivers a grounded and showstopping portrayal of Galileo. The previous incarnation of this character had an unexplained American accent and at points was a little too over the top. Ian manages to correct this by bringing us a more subtle believable portrayal, ditching the American accent for an English one and giving more mystery to Galileo. The comedy is still there with Galileo’s cryptic messages which are not at all cryptic to the audience. Ian’s vocals are outstanding, especially during ‘Who Wants to Live Forever‘ such a good well rounded and much more believable portrayal of Galileo. Elena Skye gives us powerhouse vocals and a badass rock chick as Scaramouche. Minutes into her performance she delivers a roof blowing performance of ‘Somebody to Love‘ which grabs the audience right in to this character. In terms of acting, there are similar traits of the original Scaramouche in there but there seems to be a lack of energy. This may be to do with Elena delivering a more sarcastic version of Scaramouche, but sometimes it’s too much and it just seems like the character isn’t interested in her main objective. Other than that, this is an enjoyable portrayal.
Jenny O’Leary gives us some of the most powerful vocals seen on the playhouse stage as Killer Queen. Jenny’s portrayal of the evil CEO of Globalsoft is one which delivers in regards to the vocals, her performance of ‘Play the Game‘ is the best we have heard it. However, in regards to acting there is a lack of presence and threat, we do not feel as on edge as we have in previous productions when Killer Queen is present. There was no real familiarity to the character which in this case makes Jenny’s portrayal fall flat for revisiting audience members, as Killer Queen was one of the best characters to come from this musical and unfortunately this portrayal doesn’t deliver that character through Jenny’s acting, only her powerful singing.
David Michael Johnston gives us a familiar portrayal of Brit. His comic timing and outgoing characteristics are on point along with a great stage presence. Amy Di Bartolomeo is simply staggering as OZ (Meat reenvisioned). Amy’s portrayal is more serious than we have seen this character previously, however not only that, the character seems more important and much more grounded. The highlight of the show for many audience members will be Amy’s stunning performance of ‘No One But You (Only the good die young)‘, it is without a doubt the best performance of this musical number I have seen.
The ensemble for this production has either been poorly guided by the director and choreographer or have been under rehearsed as unfortunately at points they just did not deliver. The main issue was they were completely out of sync with the choreography, and for some it looked like they just didn’t want to be there. The main scenes this affected were the Gaga Kids and Guppy scenes. The bohemian scenes were perfect, so I am unaware of why the other scenes were a different story.
Cornelius Baltus directs this brand-new production of ‘We Will Rock You‘. It is clear his vision was for a gritty and more grounded musical which really can be seen. However, the only issue is that Cornelius shouldn’t have taken away from the big characters such as Killer Queen and Scaramouche within this production, as they almost fall flat due to the fact, they are designed to be big characters. Cornelius’ new gritty production is complimented by Stufish Entertainment Architect’s set design with videos produced by Giles Maunsell & Sam Pattinson. The video setting really works for this show, even if it does come with technical difficulties now and again. At points the colour scheme is wrong and sometimes under energizes the scenes unfolding on stage, along with perhaps a lack of action happening during scenes which need to be lifted due to the restriction in space. Rob Sinclair and Douglas Green’s lighting design definitely compliments the video set design but once again there is sometimes a bit of a mismatch to what’s going on in the scenes to what’s happening with the lighting, it sometimes comes across a bit too cold.
Larjos Peter Turi’s choreography is ambitious at points but messy at others, the positioning of the ensemble is very untidy and gets in the way of the real action happening on stage. The way this choreography has been directed is also questionable seeing as a vast percentage of the ensemble struggle with it. Bob Broad’s musical direction is incredible, the band sound absolutely amazing blasting Queen’s music into the auditorium. It is spine chilling. The only critique is to do with Rory Madden’s sound design, and that is the fact that the actors cannot be heard above the band at points. But other than that, this is one of the best band performances you will hear in a musical.
‘We Will Rock You‘ is back in an all new ambitious tour, perhaps not everything works, but one thing is for certain, if you are a fan of Queen you will absolutely love this rockin musical!
Written by Lewis C. Baird
WE WILL ROCK YOU IS PLAYING THE EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE TILL SATURDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2019.
TICKETS FOR WE WILL ROCK YOU ARE AVAILABLE BELOW: