Theater Review

Theater review: Approach 'We Will Rock You' as a Queen tribute

CorrespondentDecember 4, 2013 

The cast of the national tour of "We Will Rock You."

COURTESY OF PAUL KOLNIK

  • Details

    What: “We Will Rock You,” presented by N.C. Theatre and Broadway Series South

    Where: Memorial Auditorium, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh

    When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4-8; 2 p.m. Dec. 7-8

    Tickets: $25-$91

    Info: 919-831-6941 or nctheatre.com

The show “We Will Rock You” is an entertainment combining elements of rock concert and Las Vegas extravaganza, centering on two dozen songs by the popular band Queen.

Queen fans should enjoy the production, as it gives a good approximation of the sound and feel of a Queen concert. Those who generally love the heart-thumping, eardrum-pounding thrill of a high-tech rock concert should also feel right at home. Both groups will get their money’s worth in this energetic, talent-filled national tour presentation.

A caution, though, for fans of Broadway-style musicals: It’s not a standard story-line piece like “Wicked” or even a jukebox musical like “Jersey Boys.” Instead, scriptwriter/director Ben Elton has worked up a sci-fi spoof set far in the future that barely supports the placement of the songs. The staging continually attempts to disguise non-character driven lyrics with flashing lights, billowing smoke, wild costumes and frenetic choreography in a string of music video-like production numbers. Most of the dialog’s humor comes from the gimmick of referring to present-day pop stars, entertainment technology and song lyrics.

Luckily, the cast is first-rate. Brian Justin Crum gives outcast Galileo the right wide-eyed fervor as he tries to thwart Earth’s ruling musical authorities by seeking a return to rock and roll. Ruby Lewis fills fellow nonconformist Scaramouche with withering sarcasm, expertly timed. Both have soaring voices; their love duets, “You’re My Best Friend” and “Who Wants to Live Forever” are the show’s most affecting numbers.

Also fine are Jared Zirilli’s self-loving goofball, Brit, Erica Peck’s sassy but warm-hearted girlfriend, Oz, and Ryan Knowles’ laidback druggie, Buddy – all revolutionaries hoping to break the government’s rock music ban.

Musical director Rick Hip-Flores leads his seven-member band, positioned high above the stage, in high-powered renditions of the familiar hits (but at often painful amplification). Mark Fisher’s production design makes creative use of stage-filling video screens set within standard rock-concert scaffolding. Attached are sophisticated lighting instruments, cleverly (but often blindingly) manipulated in Willie Williams’ lighting design.

It’s probably best to approach the show as a Queen tribute concert and to ignore all the futuristic silliness in between the numbers.

Dicks: music_theater@nc.rr.com

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