Imagine if you will, planet earth in 2306, now taken over by the corporation GlobalSoft and ruled by Killer Queen (Casey Donovan) and her henchman, Khashoggie (Simon Russell). Everyone wears the same fashions, watches the same movies and thinks the same thoughts. Musical instruments are banned and company computers generate tunes which everybody downloads. Hits are scheduled years in advance.
Our hero, Galileo (Gareth Keegan) is puzzled by the long lost pop and rock lyrics he hears in his head, wants to escape this world. With the help of his cockney-speaking girl-friend, Scaramouche (Erin Clare), and encouraged by an old rocker, Buddy (Brian Mannix), he sets out on a mission to rediscover rock and roll.
Along the way they meet up with a rebel tribe of bohemians, all of whom are named after long dead pop and rock stars. These bohemians wear clothes made from scraps of costumes once worn by these stars, including Madonna’s bras, a piece of Marilyn Monroe’s dress, and one of Michael Jackson’s old jackets.
Britney (Thern Reynolds) and his girlfriend, Oz (Jaz Flowers) are the leaders of the bohemians who, on hearing Galileo quote some of his lyrics, decide that he could well be the messiah who could change their world forever.
It’s a delightfully silly premise, but remarkably entertaining as updated by Ben Elton for this production with wicked references to prominent contemporary entertainers as historical artefacts, and given the benefit of dazzling lighting effects, witty costuming, and energetic choreography, it serves pretty well as a vehicle for a couple of dozen of Queen’s best songs, and provides a marvellous showcase for some remarkable Australian talent.
Among them, Erin Clare, who offers a thoroughly engaging performance as the prickly Scaramouche. Clare not only possesses an appealing stage presence, but also the vocal chops to more than hold her own in her duets with Gareth Keegan especially in You’re My Best Friend.
Keegan brings loads of sex appeal to his role as the slightly ditzy Galileo, as well as an impressive voice well able to cope with the heavy-lifting demanded by the slew of Freddie Mercury songs he tackles.
Casey Donovan is given a great entrance as Killer Queen, then proceeds to chew up the scenery with a delicious tongue-in-cheek performance that ensures that she’s impossible to ignore as she proceeds to demolish Killer Queen, Now I’m Here and especially Fat Bottomed Girls. She also demonstrates that she’s a dab hand at handling snappy choreography in Another One Bites The Dust. As her sinister henchman Khashoggi, Simon Russell almost matches her at “evil sneering”.
Thern Reynolds and Jaz Flowers both give scene-stealing performances as the bohemians, Britney and Oz, while Brian Mannix is a completely charming presence as the old rocker, Buddy.
Full marks to the hard-working all-singing, all-dancing ensemble who cope with multiple quick costume changes and demanding choreography with impressive aplomb, and to the red-hot band, led by musical director David Skelton, which achieves a stunning recreation of the Queen sound, which after all, is what the audience has come to hear.
We Will Rock You
Sydney Lyric Theatre, Pirrama Road, Sydney
Performance: Wednesday 11 May 2016
Season continues to 26 June 2016
Following the Sydney season, We Will Rock You will travel to Brisbane (from 10 July), Melbourne (from 30 August), Perth (from November) and Adelaide (from January 2017). For more information, visit: www.wewillrockyou.com.au for details.
Image: Casey Donovan as Killer Queen in We Will Rock You – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Bill Stephens