We Will Rock You is a jukebox musical and a “futurist comedy” fashioned around more than 24 of Queen’s biggest hit songs.
The musical tells the story of a globalised 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!
The apparently love child of Bat Out of Hell (a dystopian future where rebel rockers rise up against the tyrant) and Footloose (a society where dancing is banned), the musical’s history is almost as interesting as its synopsis!
According to Brian May, Queen’s manager, Jim Beach, had spoken with the band about creating a jukebox musical with Queen’s songs since the mid-1990s. Initially, the intent was to create a biographical story of Freddie Mercury.
In 1996, Robert De Niro had a meeting in Venice with May and Roger Taylor. De Niro’s daughter was a big fan of the Queen and the actor asked if the legends of rock had never thought of creating a musical based on their songs. That was the beginning of everything. De Niro’s production company, Tribeca Productions, expressed interest in a Queen musical, but it found the original idea difficult to work with.
In 2000, Ben Elton (The Young Ones, Blackadder, Popcorn) – who The Mancunion interviewed a few years back – was approached to start talks with May and Taylor on the project. He suggested taking the musical down a different path than initially imagined, creating an original story that would capture the spirit of much of their music. He worked closely with May and Taylor to incorporate Queen’s songs into the story. Elton has also stated that he was in part inspired by the computer-controlled dystopia of the 1999 science-fiction film The Matrix. The script was eventually completed midway through 2001.
Since 2002, over 15 million theatregoers in 17 countries have been thrilled by this awe-inspiring production. Although the musical was at first panned by critics, it has become an audience favourite, becoming the longest-running musical at the Dominion Theatre and the eleventh longest-running musical in West End history!
The musical stars Olivier nominee Ian McIntosh in the lead role of Galileo. McIntosh was nominated for an Olivier for starring in the original West End production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – another jukebox musical, which will be coming to the Palace Theatre next month.
McIntosh is joined by TV star Michael McKell (The Bill, Essex Boys, EastEnders, M.I.T.: Murder Investigation Team, Blessed, Totally Frank, Doctors, Emmerdale) as Cliff. The Mancunion recently interviewed McKell about his role in the musical.
The musical also sees the return of David-Michael Johnson, who is reprising the role of Brit.
The musical reflects the scale and spectacle that marked Queen’s live performances and earned the band its pinnacle position in rock history. With Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor as music supervisors and “a band without parallel in the theatre” behind the cast, the audience can expect We Will Rock You to rock as fiercely as the best of Queen’s concerts.
I reviewed Queen + Adam Lambert’s The Rhapsody Tour earlier this year, and if this musical is half as spectacular as that, audiences are in for a real treat!
We Will Rock You plays at Palace Theatre Manchester from 5th-10th September – the final stop of its UK tour.
Check out our previous review of We Will Rock You, our review of Queen + Adam Lambert’s The Rhapsody Tour, and our review of (and interview with) Ben Elton.