REVIEW: WE WILL ROCK YOU (New Wimbledon Theatre)

Queen and Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You has been seen in six continents, translated into numerous languages, thrilled 15 million theatregoers, played 17 countries and became one of the longest running musicals on the West End. Featuring Ben Elton’s hilarious book and 24 of Queen’s biggest hits, We Will Rock You is back to celebrate the shows 20th anniversary with a reimagined production currently touring the UK and Ireland. As the show stops at the New Wimbledon Theatre, audiences have the chance to catch to Break Free, find Somebody To Love and rock out to this rock theatrical once again.

Ben Elton’s futuristic story tells the story of a globalized future without musical instruments. A handful of rock rebels, the Bohemians, fight against the all-powerful Globalsoft company and its boss, the Killer Queen; they fight for freedom, individuality and the rebirth of the age of rock. Scaramouche and Galileo, two young outsiders, cannot come to terms with the bleak conformist reality. They join the Bohemians and embark on the search to find the unlimited power of freedom, love and Rock!

For this production Ben Elton directs an astoundingly talented cast riffing and belting their way through Queen’s epic catalogue or rock. Ian McIntosh leads the cast with an impressively powerful vocal as Galileo. Not many scores match We Will Rock You in terms of male vocal difficulty but from his opening, I Want To Break Free, the audience knew they were in good hands as McIntosh sang the score with swoon-worthy grungy ease. As Scaramouche, Elena Skye was outstanding. Her Somebody to Love soared to new heights as she really made the score her own adding unique vocal runs and solidifying her place as a West End leading lady (did someone say Elphaba?). David Michael Johnson was a fun Brit and as Meat, Martina Ciabatti Mennel’s No One But You (Only The Good Die Young) was a beautifully poignant moment of remembering dear friends. Michael McKell had fun energy onstage as Cliff and his These Are The Day Of Our Lives was a rousing Act Two ballad. Adam Strong’s Khashoggi was the slimy villain you love to hate and he wowed with his delivery of a powerful Seven Seas of Rhye. Jenny O’Leary as Killer Queen was stunning. Making the role undoubtedly hers from her first number Killer Queen, O’Leary’s emphasis on certain words and delivery of lines combined with her fully engaged and supported vocal performance cemented her as the best Killer Queen this reviewer has ever seen. Brava!

This newly reimagined tour sees a clever static set design by Tim Blazdell, set against a multipurpose video/projection wall depicting locations, video links offstage and even some of the video design from the original production. At numerous times throughout the show, these screens slide open to reveal the band which is a wonderful surprise. You feel like you’re getting to know the band just as well as the cast onstage which is a lovely touch. Set pieces are brought on and off by cast members effectively, although in such a fast-paced show can become a little labored going in and out of the Heartbreak Hotel.

Ben Elton’s script has been updated to include up-to-date references and expanded to explain some of the lesser fleshed-out plot points of the original production. Jokes are still intended to make you cringe, Pop (now renamed Sir Cliff Richard) is turned on equally by Scaramouche and Galileo and the touching moments still bring a tear to your eye. We now also have a powerful The Show Must Go On at the end of Act One between Killer Queen and Scaramouche (replacing Ogre Battle of the original production) and a fully realised Don’t Stop Me Now which was so much fun!

With over 4600 performances on the West End in its original run and numerous awards and accolades worldwide, We Will Rock You remains a global phenomenon and this refreshed touring production revives the show with an impressive tour de force. If you’re a Champion or a Fat Bottomed Girl who Wants It All, don’t be Under Pressure, run Headlong past the Seven Seas of Rhye and into the New Wimbledon Theatre to see We Will Rock You… it’s a Kind of Magic!

★★★★

Reviewed by Stuart James