Subtle changes to the script, set and cast give WE WILL ROCK YOU a fresh edge for 2020
As crowds descended on Manchester’s Palace Theatre for the opening night of WE WILL ROCK YOU, it’s hard to believe that this very musical was pounded by the critics when it first made its debut back in 2002. Thanks to the power of its fans, however, this jukebox musical has proved to be remarkably resilient, playing to over 16 million theatregoers in 19 countries, earning the title of 11th longest-running musical in West End history before closing in 2012.
Inspired by the music of British rock band Queen, WE WILL ROCK YOU is best described as an apocalyptic, dystopian sci-fi comedy musical. Set 300 years in the future at a time when the internet controls every element of our lives, it follows Galileo (Ian McIntosh) and the rebellious bad-ass, Scaramouche (Elena Skye) as they embark on a quest to bring back rock ‘n’ roll.
Rebooted for 2020, this new touring production directed by Cornelius Baltus is sharper and slicker than ever before, with subtle changes to the script and set giving this musical a fresh edge. The introduction of giant animated videowalls work particularly well, giving a technological, futuristic vibe to the overall production, helping to make sense of the storyline. Subtle changes to Ben Elton’s script also help to keep the comedy fresh and the content relevant.
But what makes this particular production of WE WILL ROCK YOU so special is its cast. From the leads to the ensemble, there isn’t a weak link in sight here with every cast performance blowing the audience off their feet. Ian Mcintosh and Elena Skye are simply superb in the lead roles of Galileo and Scaramouche, Mcintosh channelling the late and great Freddie Mercury with his powerful and passionate vocal performance of WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, while Skye’s rendition of SOMEBODY TO LOVE is arguably the highlight of the evening.
Elsewhere, Michael McKell plays rock stoner Buddy with subtle silliness and impeccable comic timing while Jenny O’Leary oozes sass and authority as Killer Queen, her phenomenal voice brought to the fore in A KIND OF MAGIC and ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST.
Of course, the show’s core strength remains its music with a whopping 24 of Queen’s greatest hits crammed into the two-hour show, most of which are left untouched and all of which are played with power and gusto by the live band.
In fact, the only real flaw is the occasional technical error which left a couple of cast members in the dark during act one and a sound issue which made Adam Strong’s excellent vocal performance of SEVEN SEAS OF RHYE somewhat overpowered by the band.
That said, these are minor flaws which don’t your hinder enjoyment and, overall, this is a production packed full of knockout star turns which delivers on what it promises – to rock you.
A rocking tribute to Queen and the songs that changed music.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.