There was a lot of hype surrounding the Windsor date for the North American touring version of We Will Rock You, the flashy musical based on the music of Queen. Not only does the show feature the hits of the great British rock band, but this cast featured one of our own in the cast – YQG actor Sean Sennett, who played Paul McCartney, a Bohemian with a blue mohawk.
There’s nothing small about this show. It has an over-the-top stage, giant screens, huge music and a stellar cast. It’s a fast-paced production that tells the story of a distant future where Earth’s name has been changed to Planet Mall. Everyone in this world wears the same clothes, thinks the same thoughts and goes about in a brain-dead haze – all controlled by a corporation called Globalsoft. Musical instruments and composers are forbidden, and rock music is all but unknown. However, a small group of “Bohemians” struggles to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and (most of all) live music. With the help of Pop, an ancient hippie librarian, two new Bohemians, Galileo and Scaramouche, find Rock’s Holy Grail, Brian May’s guitar buried in the remains of Embley Stadium.
It’s a cute story, written by Ben Elton, that slightly resembles the Styx 1983 mini-movie and album Kilroy Was Here that told of a future where rock music was illegal. We Will Rock You almost seems like an extension of that storyline, just many years later when rock is actually forgotten by the general population.
I went into this show hoping it would be a bit smarter than Rock of Ages was and, in several ways, there are similarities between the two, but We Will Rock You relies on a fresh story, rather than a rehash of the past. This gives We Will Rock You the advantage.
With 24 Queen classics to rely on and tell the story with, the cast has fun with the music. Memorable songs like Another One Bites The Dust, Under Pressure, Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions are laced with entertaining dance routines and exciting costumes. Once the show got moving with its second musical number Radio Ga Ga, you could tell this was a unique show. The song lyrics were changed to explain the setting, the costumes were unified in glorious pastels and the choreography was electric.
Die hard Queen fans were treated to a couple rare cuts, including the masterful Ogre Battle, which makes a short instrumental appearance in an invasion scene, Seven Seas of Rhye from the band’s debut album in 1973 and No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young), originally recorded by the remaining band members in 1997.
The show contains a rag-tag list of main characters, including Galileo (Trevor Coll), Scaramouche (Keri Kelly), Killer Queen (Krystle Chance), Khashoggi (Kyle Gruninger), Oz (Alysse Ernewein), Brit (Brian Christensen) and Buddy (Kevin Doe). Of the cast, Gruninger’s Khashoggi was a favourite. The character is just fun to watch. A nod goes to Coll for an incredible lead character with a killer voice.
And of course, last but not least, Sennett gave the hometown performance of a lifetime on the grandest theatre stage in Southwestern Ontario. He did, he did, rock us.
While nothing can really come close to the original Queen with Freddie Mercury, We Will Rock You is a fun musical with bombastic dance routines and a killer soundtrack. Since its debut 17 years ago, more than 16 million fans in 19 different countries have seen the musical.
Photos by Gene Schilling