We Will Rock You – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By @Steve Crabtree, February 2020
Despite making its debut on in the West End in 2002, We Will Rock You has only just landed in Bradford for the first time. But after being there on the opening night, I can tell you that it’s a touring production of West End quality, and has been worth the wait.
And with not one seat left in the house, the so-called Queen musical played out to a big crowd. But this isn’t the full on, heavy rock out fest you might expect. I thought this is what we’d be getting, having never watched the show or learned about the story, but it’s a side step away from that.
We have Galileo Figaro and Scaramouche, the two leads who live on the post-apocalyptic iPlanet, ruled by Killer Queen. Here, there are no musical instruments and rock music is banned and banished. It’s been lost, and it’s died. Galileo and Scaramouche are eventually beckoned upon on a mission to find it, and try to bring it back, with the help of the Bohemians.
We Will Rock You kicked off in style with ‘Innuendo’, and a very slight twist on ‘Radio Ga-Ga’. The odd lyric change in the latter set the scene for what was to come over the next couple of hours. Twenty-five numbers boom in to our ears, and we get an awesome reminder that Queen’s music will never fade away, despite the modern day ways and means of consuming music.
And we quickly find out that Galileo isn’t like his contemporaries. He’s a stand-out weirdo as far as they’re concerned. As is Scaramouche. She’s the complete opposite of other girls. She’s sarcastic, quick witted and the comic timing that the fantastic Elena Skye gives the role brings regular laughter. Skye’s vocals are pretty special too, as her epic rendition of ‘Somebody To Love’ proved.
But this isn’t a show for the serious. It’s a jukebox musical where the wonderful, timeless music of Queen is the highlight, and is supplied to us by a brilliant cast who do justice to their work. And the brilliance of Michael McKell playing the Jagger-infused (and probably substance-induced) Buddy was a show-stealer. A huge hit with the audience, who laughed hard at his every word.
The comedic moments are sprinkled around the story really well. The roars of laughter are obviously a courtesy of Ben Elton. And giggles emitting from my friend next sat to me at some of the subtle innuendo made it all the more enjoyable.
Performance wise, I could praise the whole cast, but there were too many stars to mention. I heard one unbleached view that there was a touch of Lewis Capaldi in Edward Leigh’s performance of Brit. And he certainly had his fan club in the first few rows. Crystal Lee in the ensemble had great moves and a striking look of Lady Gaga. And Jenny O’Leary gave a killer performance as Killer Queen. Especially when she grabbed ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by the throat and fired it in to Bradford in a way that would see off the recent stormy weather.
With LED screen rich scenery, we had the balance of an arena rock concert feel and glimpses in to the future. Sitting five rows from the front, sometimes the animation dazzled but I expect for much of the audience, the backdrop looked amazing. And I liked Ian McIntosh’s take on Galileo. There were timely moments in what he did that captured Freddy Mercury’s stance, swagger and vocal. But he remained his own character, steering away from touching on a tribute act.
“Injection of power”
If I had to pick out one fault, I thought that in and amongst some great dancing up on the stage, there was an occasional woolly bit of choreography. I’m trying to tell myself that those bits might be purposeful to the side plot of the modern-era, plastic pop scene. But I’m not sure. That aside, the show was full of oomph, and had the right injection of power. It balanced the need for Queen out with a nice enough, easy to digest storyline to send us home happy.
But not before we were asked if we wanted to hear ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. A great end to a great production.
Jukebox musicals can be a lottery. I’ve seen some winning shows, and seen a few losers too. But this one was a champion, my friend. And the buzz leaving the Alhambra was a clear indication that everyone involved in the show had indeed rocked us.
If you can get your hands on a ticket this week it’s a show well worth going to see.