Wow, almost completely forgot to write about this. I really would have thought that by now I’d be getting good at this blogging lark. Really not so much.
On Wednesday last week, my Mom and sister came down to London, and together we went to see the musical We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre near Tottenham Court Road, where it debuted in 2002.
As you may or may not know, it’s one of the recent-ish trend of making a musical where all the songs are drawn from the back catalogue of some musical act, e.g. ABBA with Mamma Mia, and in this case, the music of Queen. As such, the plot is mostly an elaborate attempt to string these songs together into something approximating logical consistency. I say ‘approximating’, because some of the terrible convolutions necessary to make these things fit together are pretty extreme.
A basic outline of the plot is that it’s half past the future and for some reason (something to do with creating a bland cultural conformity) all non-computer-generated music has been banned. A rag-tag band of rebels, the Bohemians, are seeking out the Dreamer, someone who can (for some unexplained reason) hear rock music in his head. It is prophesised that the Dreamer will find the last remaining electric guitar and use it to rock out and save the world (“Planet Mall”) from the evil clutches of Globosoft and their evil CEO, Killer Queen.
If that sounds terrible, that’s because it is. To say that the whole experience gave me flashbacks to Christmas Panto at the Birmingham Hippodrome would be insulting to panto – the acting was pretty bad, the jokes fell amazingly flat, some of the costumes (for instance women wearing what were essentially leather bikinis) felt just out-of-place and exploitative, and the whole production just gave off an overwhelming stench of camp crap. The amount of Queen hero-worship was also utterly cringe-worthy. Sure, they were a good band, but you can’t spend an entire show making them sound messianic without looking completely ridiculous.
Furthermore, the amount of fourth-wall stretching references to contemporary music and events just helps to reinforce the impression of bad panto. No, we don’t need characters called “Lilly Allen” or “Britney Spears”, however funny that may initially appear.
What I did find extremely odd was the response of some of the rest of the audience, who loved bits I found just terribly akward. Some of them actually stood up to applaud at the end, which was utterly unnecessary.
There’s also a terrible irony in complaining about the soulless commercialism of modern music by creating something as utterly crass as this to wring money out of the Queen back catalogue. I do wonder if the huge piles of money that this show must be generating help Dr May et al. sleep better at night.
If you’re contemplating watching We Will Rock You, don’t. Spend your money on a Queen album or three instead. The only commendable portion of this production were the songs, and frankly your money is spent a lot better listening to the originals.