We Will Rock You, musical review: I’m Ga Ga for more!

We Will Rock You plays at the London Coliseum until the end of August (Photo: Johan Persson)

We Will Rock You review and star rating: ★★★★

Wait, isn’t We Will Rock You still on at the Dominion Theatre by Tottenham Court Road? The Queen musical has become such a ubiquitous part of London’s theatrical furniture that most people aren’t aware it had gone anywhere in the first place.

But after eight years of silence, the Champions are back – they clearly thought The Show Must Go On and I agree: by the end of this cheesy spectacular I was absolutely (Radio) Ga Ga for more. Okay, enough, but honestly, it surprises me to say that We Will Rock You is actually pretty good.

It got a slew of awful reviews when it opened. Much of the hate is levelled at the cheesiness and inane plot, but then again, since when do musicals all have to be serious? Dear Evan Hansen and Be More Chill are great examples of a new breed of show that tackles issues such as mental health and bereavement, elevating the humble sing-a-long into something more introspective and ‘clever’.

But We Will Rock You doesn’t try to do that. It wants to celebrate Queen’s music over a spirited two-and-a-half-hours, with some stupendously brilliant performances. That’s not to say the story doesn’t stand up: Ben Elton’s musical tells the tale of a dystopian future where music is only available via one technological overload (hello iTunes), which feels creepily prescient now that AI is taking over our lives. It’s not often an old musical can feel more relevant as time goes on, but in the case of We Will Rock You, it somehow does.

Ian McIntosh and Elena Skye play Galileo and Scaramouche, two new recruits to the Bohemians, the rebels living on the outside of society who still believe in musical instruments and retain free thought over the machines. They Want To Be Free – are you starting to see how the songs fit in now? – so they run away from the oppressive leaders Killer Queen, played by Brenda Edwards, and Khashoggi, played by Lee Mead, to a junkyard safe space. They have incredible chemistry and both belt stupendously; Galileo sings Somebody to Love with the ferocious power of a battle cry and their duet on Who Wants To Live Forever is a boisterous, stage-filling homage to freedom, leaning into the fabulous glam rock melodrama of it all.

Lee Mead feels like he’s having his Daniel Radcliffe moment, trying to diversify away from mainstream musical roles as evil leader Khashoggi. His vocals and general energy feel constrained by the role, which doesn’t get as many big numbers as you’d hope, and it feels a shame to dress him in a dowdy cloak in which he’s barely recognisable (although I appreciated the Matrix aesthetic).

We Will Rock You circa 2023 could lean even further into the threat of the robots in 2023: many of our jobs are now genuinely at risk (hello journalism), which wasn’t the case when the musical last closed.

Ben Elton, who wrote and has directed the show, finally makes his West End debut as the Rebel Leader. There’s a great moment when he drops a gag about the railways, getting the politics of his stand-up shows front and centre, which works well in his role as the man who must inspire the downtrodden to stand up in the face of adversity. His solo, These Are The Days Of Our Lives, reveals he’s hardly a singer, though.

A track or two in the second act could have bitten the dust to strip the runtime down a bit, and the melodrama will turn off musical modernists, but for the rest of us, this is a happy return. It’s the kind of cheesy musical with a questionable script that they just don’t make anymore, but there’s still a huge audience for it. As long as the performances stand up, I’m here for it.

We Will Rock You plays at the London Coliseum until 27 August

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The post We Will Rock You, musical review: I’m Ga Ga for more! appeared first on CityAM.


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