We Will Rock You – Review – Hull New Theatre
By Rachel Howard, January 2020
The full-to-capacity crowd on a miserable Monday night at Hull New Theatre takes me somewhat by surprise. Having not seen We Will Rock You before, I’m a little taken aback at the sheer number of people present. It’s not even like there’s a “celebrity” in the cast list to explain it.
But this is THE smash hit musical written by Ben Elton and featuring the music of Queen, and it appears an awful lot of people are more in-the-know than I am. And within five minutes of the curtain raising, it all becomes crystal clear. This isn’t just another tribute show, or indeed any other touring musical you’re likely to see any time soon. This is A Kind Of Magic…
Having opened in the West End in 2002, We Will Rock You played to millions of theatregoers before closing in 2014. Yet thankfully, and quite possibly in part to the huge success of the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody, there is still a huge pull for the music of Queen, meaning this touring production is proving as successful as ever.
The story is set on iPlanet, a futuristic community controlled by GlobalSoft Corporation and ruled by Killer Queen. This is a world where musical instruments and rock music are banned – the only music that exists is computer-generated sound lacking in heart and soul. While the majority of the brainwashed community (the GaGa Kids) don’t question this life, a group of Bohemian rebels break free from the chains of Killer Queen and her sidekick, Khashoggi, in order to fulfil the prophecy that rock music will be born again.
Leading the rebels are Galileo Figaro and Scaramouche, played respectively by Ian McIntosh and Elena Skye. What makes this musical a cut above the rest is the talent of the cast and the performances they give from the very start. We’re talking West End quality in a touring show, and these two leading characters are no exception. McIntosh in particular brings an unbelievable energy to the stage, whilst also portraying a sensitive vulnerability. There are definitely hints of Freddie Mercury about his performance – stage presence, power, humour – this is a brilliantly cast role and, much to my pleasure, it doesn’t come close to verging on a cheesy tribute act.
If I had space to mention every person on the stage I would, but alongside Galileo and Scaramouche, mention must be given to the powerhouse that is Killer Queen, played with gusto by Jenny O’Leary. Wow, there are few people who command the stage the way this lady does. Belting out some of Queen’s greatest hits including ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and, of course, ‘Killer Queen’, O’Leary brings some serious class to the show. I find her portrayal completely mesmerising.
“Stonker of a show”
Bringing the humour – and I’m talking real belly laughs here, not a couple of sniggers in the back row – is the character Buddy, played with superb charisma by Michael McKell. This is a show laden with innuendo and cultural references – this updated version even mentions #metoo – and Buddy interacts fantastically with the audience leaving everyone in stitches.
Not only are the cast first rate, but all aspects of this show are top notch, and that includes the set. A clever use of lights, LED screens and moving walls make this feel about as far from a touring production as you can get. It’s a total feast for the senses and the band only adds to that with a knockout performance and excellent sound quality. The whole production is faultless, and it’s not often you can say that about any show.
We Will Rock You thunders along, taking us all with it, and before I know it, I’m on my feet along with the rest of the audience, clapping, waving arms and applauding an absolute stonker of a show.
There’s just one little niggle… it couldn’t be that they’d left out the most important part could it…? And then, in bright lights across the stage: Do You Want ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?? What do they think?! And off we all go again, rocking along to a near perfect rendition of the eternal Queen anthem.
In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I loved it! It’s by far one of the best shows I’ve seen and will take some serious beating.