A huge West End hit for twelve years (just closing last May), this awful jukebox musical does for Queen what Mamma Mia! Now at the Ahmanson Theatre, this touring production of We Will Rock You does offer very accurate nostalgia as it connects the anarchy of rock with the warrior ethos that can make rock sound like the most military of music.
The plot that stitches together the songs (by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon) is a kind of mash-up of Road Warrior, Rent, and Footloose. It’s up to the breakaway faction of Bohemians holed up in the abandoned Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas to reinvent rock as they bizarrely assume the names of long-gone rock stars.
These signs from Galileo’s dreams of a lost rock legacy lure the lovers and their (non-Facebook) followers to the gates of Graceland where, with the rediscovery of Elvis’ electric guitar, rock finally and easily triumphs over standardized mediocrity—at least in the future. Depending on who you are, We Will Rock You will either insult you with its inanity or suck you up like a Hoover. After purchase, you can download your MP3 from your Sheet Music Plus Digital Library - no software installation is necessary!
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However, the irony is that the script decries American Idol and the excessive use of technological gadgets only to end up in a production which relies on powerhouse notes and an electronic light-show mentality to make its point. Here, even with a talented cast and a nine-piece band that performs like gangbusters, mediocrity reigns. Some patrons were waving their glow sticks (placed on arm rests before the show), drunk on familiarity. But it’s much closer to the first example, if only because the silly plot is just a pretext to drop in a song. As such, We Will Rock You pays homage to both Classic Rock and the Dumbing Down of humanity. Others talked or hooted during the show as if this was the taping of a 70’s sit-com, and one man behind me sang loudly and off-pitch, high on Mercury.
With a snarky script by comedian Ben Elton, the only payoff (if you can call it that) is the special 165-decibel delivery of Queen’s biggest hits—including “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Somebody to Love,” and the titular anthem. Galileo is haunted by mental blasts from the past of stuff like a “yellow submarine” and “blue suede shoes” upon which you must not step.
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What a shame that Queen, the pioneers of sophisticated heavy metal, glam rock, and stadium rock, didn’t see their music enshrined in an equally intelligent package. Feel free to recommend similar pieces if you liked this piece, or alternatives if you didn't.
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