POPULAR music tastes have always been a movable feast. Ragtime took over from Music Hall, and then was replaced by Jazz, which in turn lost out to Big Band and Swing, which reigned until Rock ‘n’ Roll arrived in the swinging sixties. The 1970s and 80s saw the rock bands kings of the genre, and none were bigger or more successful than Queen, fronted by the legendary Freddie Mercury.
In May 2002, ten years and six months after Mercury’s death, original band members Brian May and Roger Taylor combined with writer Ben Elton to create this jukebox musical celebrating the music of Queen. As the show sets out on its 20th anniversary tour, rock music has itself been replaced at the head of pop music culture, but judging from the big enthusiastic mixed aged audience that gathered to welcome We Will Rock you to the Bristol Hippodrome – and send it merrily on its way touring the country – there is still no shortage of people waiting impatiently to hear the band’s greatest hits once again.
Twenty two numbers are included in Ben Elton’s book, which is more of an excuse to play and sing the music than tell a story, and as the director of this production, Elton has gathered together a first class band to recreate those hits. The five musicians sitting at the back of the stage throughout could well be original members of Queen from the sounds they produce.
There’s no attempt onstage to recreate a Freddie Mercury (who could) but the seven principals and an ensemble full of enthusiasm and commitment, never short change the audience on any of the numbers. You can take your pick as to which of the principals you believe to be top of the pops. My choice would be Ian McIntosh and Elena Skye as Galileo and Scaramouche, but if you stood out side the stage door after the show and did a straw pole of 100 of the leaving audience Michael McKell (Cliff), Adam Strong (Khashoggi), Jenny O’Leary (Killer Queen), David Michael Johnson (Brit) and Martina Ciabatti Mennell (Meat) would all have their fair share of supporters.
Well mounted with expert use of video and well designed lighting and sound, the show looks good and produces the sounds as advertised. You don’t have to have your thinking cap screwed on tightly to enjoy this presentation, all that is required is liking the music of Queen. The show wisely shied away from trying to remaster the nine-weeks chart topper, million-plus seller Bohemian Rhapsody, content with a short burst via the video screen, reprieved at the finale.
The next two stops on the We Will Rock You tour are Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre, from 2nd to 7th May, and the Princess Theatre in Torquay from 16th to 21st May.