Way back in 2007, The Wife and I were visiting London and decided to take in the Queen-based musical “We Will Rock You.” I left the theater thinking the story was pretty corny but the music was pretty great.
Seven years later the show has made its way across the pond. I left last night’s St. Louis premiere thinking the story was still pretty corny but the music is still pretty great.
“We Will Rock You” is one of those productions where they take the catalogue of a well-known band (in this case Queen) and shoehorn a dozen or so of their songs into a story. It’s better than “Mamma Mia!” (the Abba musical) but not as good as “Jersey Boys” (the Four Seasons musical).
The story, written by Ben Elton, takes place in a not-so-distant future where live music — and particularly rock and roll — no longer exists and everyone lives in an Internet-fueled daze. Everything is controlled by the Globalsoft Corporation, which is run by a woman called — wait for it — Killer Queen (Jacqueline B. Arnold).
Into this sterile environment arrives Galileo Figaro (Brian Justin Crum), a troubled young man who hears voices in his head. These voices are feeding him song lyrics, although neither he nor anyone around him understand it. He finds a soul mate in fellow misfit Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis) and together they run away.
The couple are taken in by the Bohemians, led by Buddy (Ryan Knowles), Brit (Jared Zirilli) and Oz (Erica Peck). Brit is convinced that Galileo is the chosen one who will bring down the crap music of Globalsoft and bring back real, live music. In short — he will rock you.
“We Will Rock You” is a high-energy show featuring wild costumes, smoke and strobe lights, large video-screen images and a barrage of loud rock and roll. The actors all have terrific pipes (Ryan Knowles has a wonderful speaking voice) and are backed by an impressive band located above the stage.
The story is silly but everyone seems to accept that and runs with it. This is not a production that takes itself too seriously. The show adapts to keep up with current trends in music and pop culture. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a twerking reference when I saw it in 2007.
The story’s not what’s important. You’re here for the music after all and the show features more than 20 Queen songs, a few obscure ones but mostly the hits. Some fit nicely into the narrative, some feel forced. A few songs have had their lyrics modified to fit the story, especially “Radio Ga-Ga,” which has been reworked to set the stage for the Globalsoft world.
Among the songs you’ll be singing along to are Queen classics “Somebody to Love,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites The Dust.” If you’re the type of person who leaves during curtain calls you will miss out on a stirring rendition of one of the band’s most beloved hits.
“We Will Rock You” runs through March 30 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/