We Will Rock You is the rock musical based on the songs of British legends Queen, with a book by Ben Elton. Set 300 years in the future, Earth is now renamed iPlanet and is run by the Globalsoft Corporation. It tells the story of a bunch of bohemians fighting for free thought, fashion, and live music in a world where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same. Music is forbidden and instruments virtually wiped out, and rock music is nothing but a legend of the past.
A show like We Will Rock You that contains some of the most recognizable songs of the last century demands a tight, well-rehearsed and extremely talented band, and from the first ten seconds of the introduction I knew that was exactly what we were getting. Musical Director Kate Notini has gathered a brilliant group of dedicated musicians who knew the score inside out and provided us with a very authentic Queen sound. Special Mention to Guitar 1 player Kathleen Halloran, who handled the lead guitar line with absolute skill and gave us some of Brian Mays best guitar lines with really gusto, it was a real pleasure to listen to (and watch!)
We are introduced to the cast with the opening number Innuendo, and what a great group! The choreography of this number was tight, interesting and visually appealing. Vocals were strong and cohesive, and the costuming was vibrant.
We are soon introduced to our two main characters, Galileo (Jonathon Gardner) and Scaramouche (Morgan Heynes) and what a powerhouse couple! Gardner brings his Galileo to life with incredible skill, his voice soars and easily carries these celebrated songs from the stunning Who Wants To Live Forever to the rocking We Will Rock You. Galileo is a soul tortured by the words that appear in his head and in his dreams, and he conveys this with a believable innocence as he spouts forth song titles and lyrics uncontrollably. He has great comic timing and wonderful chemistry with his leading lady.
The Formidable Killer Queen is played by Natasha Bassett, whose strong stage presence is perfect for this role. Whilst she was not always vocally strong, particularly in the lower register, she handled the many issues with the sound with professionalism, and didn’t skip a beat. A particular highlight for me comes in act 2, where she is joined by some incredible backing dancers sporting gorgeous pink hoovers!
Before long we meet the bohemians, and the characters of Brit (Brady King) and Oz (Melissa Harrington). King is larger than life with a voice to match, and rocks a kilt like nobodies business. His voice is rock personified and was an absolute pleasure to watch. Harrington as Oz is stunning, with her spectacular rendition of No One But You leaving few dry eyes in the house.
The leader of the Bohemians Buddy is played by Matt Skinner, who had just the right amount of silliness and skill to carry the sometimes cheesy script with aplomb. Skinner has us all laughing, reminiscing and singing along with These Are the Days of our Lives.
The set was simple with a clever use of LED Screens and a revolving stage. The visuals presented on the screens were creative and well designed, especially the slick Matrix style designs and the retro Pacman images that had the small boy in front of me enthralled. The lighting design by Jason Bovaird of Moving Light Productions was extremely effective and often made us feel like we were front row at a rock concert.
Opening night of We Will Rock You was plagued with sound problems, and we lost a lot of the ensembles harmonies and large chunks of dialogue that included some major plot points, so if you weren’t familiar with the storyline you may have gotten a little lost. At times, the band was out of balance, particularly the guitars, but this was usually rectified quite quickly. I hope that these issues have been ironed out and that the rest of the season continues smoothly for the cast and crew.
The costuming designed by Jeremy Bailey-Smith all the way from New York and co-ordinated by Maxine Urquhart is very well put together. With several costumes paying homage to Mercury himself, and the bohemians representing many of Pop and Rocks most famous looks, the show is visually delightful.
The night and the show finishes with undoubtedly Queens most famous song. Sung by Gardner and Heynes with the entire cast, it starts with that oh so familiar silhouette imagery on the big screen, and the original recording before being picked up by the band and Gardner, who expertly navigates the falsetto range with delicacy and respect, not trying to emulate Freddy Mercury but sounding like a rock god in his own right. It is quite something to turn around and see the theatre light up with phone torches and lighter apps and the crowd swaying along with the cast. What a way to end a fantastic show, and I know we were singing all the way home.
CentreStage Geelong’s We will Rock You is playing from July 20 to August 4 at Geelong Performing Arts Centre with tickets available at http://gpac.org.au/.