If you haven’t done it yet, make the effort to see Ben Elton’s We will Rock You at the Sydney Lyric Theatre before the season ends on June 26.
It wasn’t exactly what I expected but the two-and-a-half-hour show delivers the music that I hoped would be at its heart: a plot that sends up our modern online and social media addiction is accompanied by a fabulous soundtrack of Queen’s greatest hits.
We enter the world of Globalsoft Corporation ruled by Killer Queen (Casey Donovan in great form), a video game character who uploaded herself into reality.
In this world live music is a threat that undermines society, a world where Facebook friends are numerous and real friends are few. And the authorities like it that way.
Khashoggi (Simon Russell) is head of security making sure the revolutionary nonconformist nature of rock does not upset the predictable social order.
But he’s too late, thanks to a growing underground of music activists, led by ‘Buddy Holly’ (Brian Mannix), who are seeking the musical Holy Grail inspired by antique analogue artifacts they hilariously misinterpret.
This lack of understanding provides the basis for the show’s humour: all the activists have adopted names of rock, and sometimes pop, legends, including a male Madonna with sharp metallic breastplate boobs.
The ragbag band of revolutionaries are searching for the sacred axe that will bring music back into their lives. Their best hope appears as a confused outcast, Galileo Figaro (Gareth Keegan), who inexplicably blurts out rock lyrics that just seem to pop into his head, and which he does not understand. He is accompanied by another outcast who vehemently rejects her option to be a Ga Ga girl and who Galileo names Scaramouche (Erin Clare).
The pair are somewhat overshadowed in the first half of the show by Casey Donovan’s huge voice and the energetic cast, especially Jaz Flowers and Thern Reynolds as the couple Oz and Brit.
But Erin Clare manages to hold her own as the sarcastic sharp-tongued Scaramouche – she also occasionally steals the spotlight with some great singing.
Keegan’s Galileo was tentative when the show opened but now well into the season has hopefully matured. His voice struggled, especially in the much-anticipated rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” but to be fair it would be hard to find anyone to do justice to Freddie Mercury.
Overall this show is worth seeing: the cast is exuberant, the satirical jabs amusing, the costumes striking, and the sets and lighting add over-the-top theatrical flourishes.
Above all, there is the delight of many Queen favourites such as “We are the Champions”, “We will rock you”, “Radio Ga Ga”, “I want to break free”, “Somebody to love”, “Under pressure”, “Another one bites the dust”, and of course “Bohemian Rhapsody”, one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
We Will Rock You is at the Sydney Lyric Theatre until June 26.