Theatre Under the Stars
We Will Rock You

When & Where July 2–August 27, 2022 at 8pm; Performances alternate evenings (7pm on Fireworks Nights July 23, 27 & 30)| Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park

Production Manager Richard Berg Director Saccha Dennis Set & Lighting Design Robert Sondergaard Costume Design Brian Ball Sound Design Bradley Danyluk Musical Director Christopher King Choreography Shay Kuebler Stage Manager Collette Berg Musicians Christopher King, Arielle Balance, Sam Brock-Mahood, Jason Heras, Monica Dumas & Colin Parker

Reviewer John Jane

When Queen’s flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury died thirty years ago, many felt the music would die with him. Well, they were wrong. Since Mercury’s premature death, a couple of phenomena have come about. The use of eighties rock music on film soundtracks, and of course the collaboration of American singer Adam Lambert and existing members have helped the music of Queen to be just as relevant in the 21st century.

Despite the show’s somewhat misleading title, We Will Rock You is not a tribute concert, but in fact, a jukebox musical that features the music of Queen. Like most stage musicals, it relies on the songs to propel the narrative. However, musicals that use music composed with a different desideratum tend to shape the narrative to suit the songs – the result can often produce unintended humour.

The early strains of “Radio Ga Ga,” one the show’s instantly recognizable tunes performed by the ensemble in their flashy multicolored costumes, promises an evening of fun theatre; a promise that was, to a large extent fulfilled by a talented cast.

The show’s premise is radically different from a lot of the musicals that we may have seen previously. Taking place three hundred years in the future in a time of corporate dystopia where all aspects of life are controlled. Rock music has been outlawed, musical instruments eliminated and Earth has been renamed iPlanet – yuk!

But to be sure, rock music won’t die without a fight. Not with a rabid bunch of Bohemians determined that “Rock ‘n Roll” will never die, even without a clear idea of what it really is! They enlist the help of a pair of misfits, Galileo (Danny Malena) and Scaramouche (Jessica Spenst) - names taken from Freddie Mercury’s imagination in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The production helmed by director Saccha Dennis who actually performed in the original US tour production, does an excellent job with its musical arrangements. Being a jukebox musical featuring some of Queen’s most memourable songs, audience appreciation and even participation seemed a natural end product.

While Danny Malena and Jessica Spenst work hard in the lead roles, We Will Rock You is very much an ensemble show. TUTS veteran Steffanie Davis owns every scene she is in as the larger-than-life Killer Queen, particularly when she delivers a second act highlight with “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

I’ve always admired the stage presence of Tim Howe, whom I last saw in the low-key Richmond Gateway Theatre production of Broadway Holiday, This time he delivers an over-the-top performance of Killer Queen’s evil lieutenant Khashoggi – I thought it knd of odd that this character be given the same name as assassinated Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Simon Auclair-Troughton as the likable Buddy almost steals the scene from the main protagonists in the Heartbreak Hotel sequence.

Robert Sondergaard’s scenic design and lighting and Brian Ball’s splashy clothing go some way in evoking the show’s futuristic theme. Former member of 605 Collective Shay Kuebler’s dance syntax is straight forward and precise.

Queen’s’s musical legacy has assuredly galvanized people across cultures; after seeing how much fun a predominantly young Vancouver audience had, the music has clearly galvanized people across generations.

© 2022 John Jane