Reviews/Musical Theatre

Rock royalty gets a theatrical flourish

2 November 2020

If Abba can have a musical, why not Queen? David Zampatti says there was something authentic and satisfying about this stripped-down, prom-am production of We Will Rock You.

We Will Rock You, Platinum Entertainment ·
Crown Theatre, 31 October 2020 ·

There’s nothing especially complicated about Queen’s overblown bravura ballads anchored by Freddie Mercury’s poperatic falsetto-tinged tenor vocals and Brian May’s symphonic guitar riffs and patented solos.

What’s easy to overlook, though, is how good they were at it, or how game-changing and definitive their legacy is; I swear there are dozens of stadiums around the globe built solely so Queen could perform We Will Rock You in them; there are major league sporting competitions mounted for no other reason than so crowds could sing along to We Are the Champions; would the music video clip or karaoke bars even exist if it weren’t for Bohemian Rhapsody?

So, a jukebox musical based on their stuff? Well, if Abba can have one, why not Queen?

There was something very authentic and satisfying about Platinum Entertainment’s stripped-down pro-am production of Ben Elton’s shoehorning of the guts of the Queen repertoire into the stage musical, We Will Rock You.

Holly Denton is Scaramouche and Blake Williams is Galileo in ‘We Will Rock You’. Photo: Stephen Heath

The less said about the story line the better; it’s a hopelessly ludicrous and entirely predictable boy-meets-girler set in a distant future where cardboard cutout totalitarians have banned all things rock music – although to be fair Elton’s script has some fun riffing on classic song titles and some shameless, gruesome stock-standard dialogue to keep us amused between the numbers.

But this cast, largely made up of talent quest competitors and song and dance school alumni, are well and truly up to the task of giving Queen’s barnstorming hits a theatrical flourish, and yet there’s still enough rough-edged pub cover band enthusiasm about them that is endearing and diverting.

The dancing (effectively choreographed by Una Genuino on director Trevor Patient’s intelligently emptied-out Crown Theatre stage) might have lacked the precise snap of a seasoned professional ensemble, but it was fun to watch, and the singing mightn’t have had the precise crackle of, say, a graduating cast of WAAPA students, but it had all the pop an audience needs to rock on with.

The creative team mightn’t have had the budget of the all-pro touring musicals we’ve become accustomed to seeing at Crown in less infectious times, but its costume designers (Katrina Patient and Leah Andrews), sound (Jordan Gibbs), lighting (Jerry Reinhardt) and visual effects (Rory Henderson) designers all did more than was necessary to make this one look and sound just fine.

There’s a fair argument that We Will Rock You is a show that can be done too well, that technical quality will expose the weakness of the material rather than its strengths. That’s not a problem here.

The one factor where that is critically not the case is the music, and the six piece band of musical director Joe Louis Robinson is as good as you would hear anywhere. Get that right and half the battle’s won, and they romp it in.

There’s plenty to like about the principal cast too; its biggest name, Australian Idol champ Casey Donovan is no Tina Turner, but her character is no Acid Queen either, and she works through some of Queen’s comic songs, “Fat Bottom Girls”, “Another One Bites the Dust” and her eponymous “Killer Queen” with pantomime rollick. The husband and wife team Paula Parore and Clay Darius give the husband and wife team Oz and Brit a haka-inspired uberbogan energy that nails “I Want it All”, “Headlong” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”.

Dean Misdale gives the apparatchik Khashoggi a nasty Karl Lagerfeld gloss in “A Kind of Magic”, and Matt Dyktynski’s “These Are the Days of Our Lives” has an endearing rough diamond sweetness to it (Dyktynski alternates the role of Buddy with the much-loved Perth music icon Jamie Mercanti, whose return to the stage during the season after fighting serious illness will, deservedly, be greeted with acclamation).

As the boy who met the girl Galileo, Blake Williams is a little less larger-than-life than the other leads, but he holds up well in his duets with Holly Denton’s Scaramouche (“Radio Gaga”, “Under Pressure”, “Who Wants to Live Forever”, “Hammer to Fall”).

And that takes some doing, because the pocket-rocket Denton makes the show her own, and delivers its best moment, performing Queen’s best song, the perfectly constructed and genuinely moving “Somebody to Love”.

It’s a shame that wasn’t the show’s finale, and it’s takeaway message, but instead pride of place had to go to the arena epics. Otherwise there was little to dislike and much to enjoy in this We Will Rock You.    

We Will Rock You continues at Crown Theatre until 21 November 2020.

Pictured top: the cast of ‘We Will Rock You’ had had all the pop needed to rock on with. Photo: Stephen Heath

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

Past Articles

  • Tributes to musical idols light up stage

    A cabaret veteran and opera performer bring very different interpretations of the greats of classical, jazz and pop in the second week of the Perth International Cabaret Festival, writes David Zampatti

  • Life is a cabaret festival

    From an exquisite performance by Lior to mashed up anthems of gender equality, the opening weekend of the Perth International Cabaret Festival provides plenty of reasons to come hear the music play, writes David Zampatti.

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