WE WILL ROCK YOU
By Gary Murray
Starring Brian Justin Crum, Ruby Lewis and Jacqueline B. Arnold
Music and lyrics by Queen
Story and script by Ben Elton
Directed by Ben Elton
The Dallas Summer Musicals gets a large number of very different musical experiences. There are kid friendly musicals such as The Little Mermaid and The Wizard of Oz, bawdy musicals such as The Producers and Spamalot and warhorse musicals such as Chicago and West Side Story. Seldom does the DSM get to host musical that just rocks down to the very soul. That is rectified with We Will Rock You, a musical experience set to the music of Queen, one of England’s greatest rock bands.
The play is not a glorified concert experience but an actual work of fiction with some of the massive hits of the band hung like ornaments on a Christmas tree. In the center of the proscenium arch is the classic band coat of arms and concert scaffolding and risers hug the stage. It looks much more like a concert than a theater experience.
The cast opens with “Radio Gaga” a European hit that wasn’t truly accepted by American audiences. Some of the lyrics have been changed to explain the justification of the story. It is set in the future, almost in a George Orwell state of mind. Everything is conformity and the cast sings about how music is pre-programmed without any soul. To put it simply, it does not rock.
The story is told is a super modern fashion, with video screens taking the place of sets. The costumes of the future are a cross between cheerleading garb and imagined futuristic clothing from the 1960. It is all style over function.
Galileo (Brian Justin Crum) is a graduate of the music program. He does not want to make this dreadful mush but wants to make real music with real guitars. Problem is that all guitars are gone and no one remembers what real rock sounds like. Galileo hears the music in his head, spouting off rock lyric after lyric. Many assume that he is crazy and much silliness comes from his spouting rock tunes. The entire production comes across more as a farce than a drama.
He sings about this lament in the stunning rock number “I Want to Break Free.” This showcases his voice, a cross between a rough and tumble bar singer and a classically trained musician. It is a perfect fit for Freddy Mercury songs.
On the other side of the plot, a young lost girl (Ruby Lewis) is mocked by her peers. She is a non-conformist and is just trying to find “Somebody to Love”. Anyone who has seen a play knows where these two are going to end up by the end of Act II. Galileo gives her the name Scaramouche.
The bad guys are represented by Globalsoft, a giant multinational who have basically taken over the world. It is led by Killer Queen (Jacqueline B. Arnold). She is a bisexual vixen who uses her powers to obtain her wanton desires. She is also a believer of prophesy which states that a hero/dreamer will find the instruments and a bright star will unite all the Bohemians, the outcasts.
Eventually Galileo and Scaramouche find their way to the Hard Rock Café, a hovel where they meet all of the other outcasts. These outcasts have taken names from rock legends and they are led by Buddy Holly (Ryan Knowles). He knows very little about what rock is to be but still professes his love for the genre. There are jokes upon jokes with references to well known and obscure rock legends and lyrics.
The Bohemians eventually believe that Galileo is the prophesied dreamer. Eventually they are all captured by Khashoggi (P.J. Griffith) and the henchmen.
In Act II, our two heroes are implanted with devices to monitor them. They remove the devices and head back to the Hard Rock Café to rejoin their friends. Unfortunately, all the rockers have been given mind control devices and are almost useless. Eventually, they realize the true meaning of the prophesy and the final journey is on. It all ends with the forces of evil defeated to “Tire Your Mother Down” then “We Will Rock You/We are The Champions.”
This is a joy of a musical experience. Part of the fun is how the re-imaging of Queen songs are juxtaposed into a theater experience. “Under Pressure”, “You’re my Best Friend” and “Fat Bottom Girls” are transformed into Broadway magic. It is a new coat of paint on an old classic. A personal favorite “Seven Seas of Rhye” is used in a Laser Cage scene to a sparkling effect.
The projection sets jump toward the audience and the ensemble are some of the most overjoyed players to hit the DSM stage. They sing and dance as if their very lives depended on the performance. The young actors and actresses drive the songs to a frenzied conclusion.
We Will Rock You is just the kind of fresh breath that the Great White Way needs. It should bring a different audience to the musical setting. It is a rarity, a truly original musical experience.