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As a self-confessed Queen fanatic, when I heard about, We Will Rock You, a play set to their music, I was understandably excited, with visions of the brilliance of Mamma Mia coming to mind. Written to celebrate and pay tribute to Queen’s music, the play tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world known as the iplanet, where technology rules, people have become one with the internet and to be individual and stand out is a crime. It follows the lives of the members of the resistance movement made up of misfits Galileo Figaro, Scaramouche, Britney Spears and many other bizarrely nicknamed characters who want to bring rock music and individual expression back.
Sound cliché? I hate to admit it but while the theme was undoubtedly fitting to celebrate Queen, champions of individuality, it left a lot to be desired! Like many musicals I have seen written to celebrate the music of an artist such as Son of a Preacher Man and Bat out of Hell, the script was somewhat of a disappointment. The plot appeared hastily constructed at best and more of a half-hearted attempt to force a storyline to vaguely fit the music, rather than create an engaging plot in its own right, even awkwardly changing time-honoured lyrics to fit the story better.
However, after having gritted my teeth a little for a while, doggedly noting all the things wrong with the play, I noticed the audience around me. From pensioners to pre-teens, the audience was rich with representatives of people from every walk of life and every aspect of society, and every single one of them had a smile on their face. I began to be blown away by the incredible renditions and unexpected takes on classic songs by the undeniably talented cast. I couldn’t help but laugh at the hilarious puns on 80’s rock lyrics, the ridiculous drumroll introduction to the extremely macho ‘Britney Spears’ and references that old friend us 2000’s kids will remember too well the vid-eyo! Adam Strong stole the show in the role of hilariously incompetent rebel leader Khashoggi, and the futuristic set was second to none.
I couldn’t help noting the little things, like the 11-year old’s in Queen crest t-shirts excitedly chattering to their grandma about what it was like to see Queen live during the interval, the little old couple sitting next to me holding hands as they relieved their era. I found myself quite overwhelmed with the Euphoria of a whole concert hall of thousands of people moving together as one during the finale of We Will Rock You. It was one of those moments where everything seemed to move in slow motion. Yes the acting was amateur at best, yes the script was shambles, yes you never knew what song was going to randomly be performed next for no apparent rhyme or reason, but a whole room of people with nothing else whatsoever in common, were all singing along to the same lyrics, stomping their feet to the same rhythm. For me, that is what Queen and Freddie Mercury have always been about, not the fame, the fortune, the production value, but the sheer unbridled joy of existence. Their music will always have a remarkable ability to unite and bring people together, and nothing showed that more than a crappy production on a rainy Wednesday night in Manchester. So as the song says “everywhere the broken-hearted, on every lonely avenue, no one could reach them, no one but you”. Rest in peace, Freddie. God save the Queen!