Birmingham Hippodrome – until 30th July 2022
Reviewed by Emma Millward
It’s been twenty years since ‘We Will Rock You’ debuted at London’s Dominion Theatre. This Jukebox musical featuring the songs of Queen and the book/script by Ben Elton definitely caught the public’s attention after a slow start in 2002 and is undoubtedly still as popular as ever after all those years.
The show is set in a dystopian future where Earth has been renamed ‘iPlanet’ and is controlled by Globalsoft Corporation. Everyone dresses the same, thinks the same way and listens to computer-generated music. Life is lived through the internet, musical instruments and live music are forbidden and rock music has long since been forgotten about. Despite this, Galileo Figaro (Ian Mcintosh) still dreams and hears lyrics in his head. He meets Scaramouche (Elena Skye) when they are captured by Khashoggi (Adam Strong), the Commander of Globalsoft’s Police following the orders of the corporation’s leader ‘Killer Queen’, played with definite Cruella de Vil vibes by Jenny O’Leary. Her performance of the song she is named after showcased her amazing and powerful vocal skills.
We are introduced to the ‘Bohemians’, a group of rebels who believe in the prophecy that there are hidden musical instruments somewhere on the iPlanet. They are all named after musicians such as Tina Turner, Madonna and Britney Spears (played brilliantly in this performance by understudy Edward Leigh). There are lots of pop culture references throughout the show, especially when Meat (Martina Ciabatti Mennell) sings ‘No One but You (Only the Good Die Young), which the Bohemians dedicate to the singers who died young (Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Amy Winehouse and, of course Freddie Mercury among others). Michael Mckell is outstanding as Cliff (Sir Cliff actually!), the slightly confused Bohemian who is trying to figure out whether the prophecy is true. He delivers some of the funniest lines in the show.
Ben Elton’s script is often a little silly in places, but it’s also still as relevant today in the way it depicts the internet-obsessed lives some people lead. The music is, of course, an important part of the story and there are 24 songs packed into the show. The band appears onstage at different points on the top floor of the two-tiered backdrop and this makes them feel like more of a part of the show. It was so hard at times to resist the urge to sing along!! The whole cast work brilliantly together. Ian McIntosh in particular, shines as Galileo, and has a vocal range I am sure Freddie would have approved of. Ben Elton has updated the script to include references to the Covid-19 pandemic, but not in such a way that it is off-putting for the audience.
Die hard Queen fans will no doubt love the show regardless of the script though. There wasn’t a dull moment and the time flew by so fast, and the cast were met with a well-deserved standing ovation before the encore of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, performed in full by the cast. Queen and their music have been around for over fifty years and, judging by the response from this audience, the popularity of this show will definitely live forever and carry on having a certain ‘Kind of Magic’!