We Will Rock You
Music by Queen, Book by Ben Elton
Performed by Toronto Cast
Directed by Ben Elton
Produced by David & Ed Mirvish & Kimsa Group
Canon Theatre, Toronto
Live! On Stage
Review by Mary Alderson
We Will Rock You, or as it’s more commonly known, the Queen musical, will thrill anyone who grew up in the seventies and eighties. To hear the late great Freddie Mercury’s songs performed by a talented cast with strong, solid voices backed by a band complete with the right guitar riffs, is an exciting adventure.
The plot is also good fun – but don’t go expecting serious drama. It’s a little over the top with corny jokes and cheesy laughs. Nevertheless, there’s an element of Orwell’s 1984, along with some Biblical allegory.
The story is set 300 years in the future. The world is run by a company called Globalsoft. (Is this so far-fetched? At work, if Windows isn’t operating and the computers are down, nothing gets done, and when we arrive home, the first thing we do is check in with Outlook – who’s running our lives now?) The plot also condemns commercialism – the planet is now known as the Mall. Only music created by Globalsoft is allowed, and there are just vague rumours about an era called rock ‘n’ roll. When a group of rebels (young Bohemians) go looking for musical instruments, they seek a bright star to lead them in their quest. By the way, they don’t find any instruments of mass destruction, but they do come across a museum piece called a video tape (or vy-day-oh-tap-ay, as they pronounce it.) Pop music is satirized delightfully, and there is much Canadian humour included – with jabs at Degrassi and Celine Dion, as well as mentions of others such as Bare Naked Ladies.
Erica Peck as Scaramouche leads the cast with her amazing voice and sassy attitude. Peck was only in the second year of the 3-year musical theatre program at Sheridan College, when she auditioned for We Will Rock You and surprised everyone by landing the lead role. Peck can belt the rock tunes louder and longer than anyone else, her powerful voice performing eight times a week and never missing a show. She gives her all to Somebody to Love and I Want To Break Free. Her energy and enthusiasm is evident even in matinee performances. She also delivers the lines with a perfect sarcasm.
Equally as powerful is Yvan Pedneault as Galileo Figaro. His slight Quebecois accent is engaging, and the audience roars when Scaramouche accuses him of trying to “play the French card.” Pedneault’s voice has the range of Freddie Mercury’s and handles the Queen classics well. But on some performances, an understudy or swing has to step in for him, considering the demand of the Queen songs, such as We Are The Champions.
Susie McNeil as Oz, Sterling Jarvis as Britney and Alana Bridgewater as the Killer Queen all belt out the Queen repertoire with strong voices, giving us favourites such as I Want It All or Crazy Little Thing Called Love. An excellent ensemble of singer-dancers playing various roles completes the cast.
Not only does We Will Rock You quiz your knowledge of Queen songs with 25 numbers in the show, there are also dozens of references to lyrics of various rock artists to keep you on your toes. Baby Boomers should rise to the test and enjoy the nostalgia trip.
A piece of advice – like a rock concert, you have to stay ‘til the very end to enjoy the encore. Some folks left early and missed out – the cast had saved the best for last! Which brings me to one of my pet peeves – annoying people who try to push past me to get out, when I am still applauding the actors on stage. Come on, are you really in that much of a hurry to get to the parking lot? (Same thing goes for hockey games when so-called fans abandon their team to be first out of the arena. I love it when the hometown team ties it up with only five seconds left on the clock!)
The music in We Will Rock You is the very best of Queen, and it would make Freddie Mercury proud. Sure, the plot is a little schmaltzy, but as one theatre-goer said, “It’s the best schmaltz ever.”
We Will Rock You continues at Toronto’s Canon Theatre. Tickets are available by calling 1-800-461-3333. There is a 30% discount (for example, the high end $94 seats are $65) for some performances, if you use the discount code summer07.
Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently the Community Economic Development Officer with the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation.