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Queen show rocks, but is no Killer
24 January 2010 Reviewed by Peter Crawley

We Will Rock You

By Queen and Ben Elton

The O2, Dublin, until January 31

Rating: ***

We’ve been trying to understand these lyrics all our lives, admits one pained character named Meat in We Will Rock You. You and me both, Meat.

‘‘Mama, just killed a man’’?

‘‘Tigers defying the laws of gravity’’? ‘‘Dynamite that comes equipped with a laser beam’’?

Trying to assemble the words of a Queen song into comprehensible sense is no small order. So using them as the foundation of a musical requires some lateral thinking.

In Ben Elton’s monstrously successful jukebox musical, set in a dystopian future, where all music is manufactured, all instruments banned and all imagination strictly curtailed, everyone’s favourite pomp rock band has become the basis of inscrutable prophesies, lost relics and tangled scriptures. In short, Queen have become a religion.

Not that Elton is inclined to take his conceit too seriously.

We Will Rock You, a connect-the-dots assembly of Queen’s ridiculously glorious back catalogue, nestled in a suitably daft futuristic extrapolation of conformity and commercialism, is the right show for the right fan base.

On Planet Mall, ruled over by Brenda Edwards’ ironfisted, huge-lunged Killer Queen (who else?) a lone dreamer is spurred towards uprising. Cue: I Want to Break Free. This rebel is Galileo Figaro (yes, really), played by the attractively toothsome Michael Falzon.

Soon he will hook up with Sarah French-Ellis’s kindred goth girl Scaramouche (uh huh). Cue: Somebody to Love. Together they conspire with the underground resistance movement, the Bohemians (I’m not making this up) who await the coming of their foretold Rhapsody. Cue: Almost everything else.

Now, this is more a set-list than a plot. While some songs are deployed with an appropriately light wit - Edwards’ Don’t Stop Me Now, for instance, is repeatedly interrupted - others are shoehorned in so indelicately it seems Elton (who also directs) is fretful that anything should be missed.

Does it matter how Fat Bottomed Girls makes the cut, so long as we get to hear it?

Conversely, the design of this touring production of a seven-year-old show seems a little sparse, bordering on the threadbare, with Mark Fishers skimpy video backdrops and insubstantial platforms often struggling in the vast performance space.

Meanwhile, would-be showstoppers such as Falzon and French-Ellis’s duet on Under Pressure feel underpowered; not helped, admittedly, by a number of technical issues which twice stalled the production on opening night.

Compensating with good grace, Kevin Kennedy’s Pop became more endearing through his manful efforts to continue without a microphone, but such hindrances suggest a production that has either lost focus or is beginning to show its age.

It may not matter to those unfussy legions who still wish to revel in the camp excess of Freddie Mercury’s anthems or wave an air guitar in Brian May’s direction.

If you can also contentedly reconcile Elton’s stridently anti corporate message with his mercilessly commercial package, the show gets by on the right amount of breeze, stomp and pomp. It’s easy come, easy go. Little high, little low.

Any way the wind blows . . .

This story appeared in the printed version of the Sunday Business Post Sunday, January 24, 2010
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