We Will Rock You - And Sock You, And Pound You, And Hammer It Into Your Head - The Bad Anonymous Sex of Musical Theatre - A Review
We Will Rock You - Canon Theatre, Toronto, ON
HOLY CRAPTACULAR BATMAN!
So I had to go see for myself what We Will Rock You, the new musical that opened in Toronto, and had played London for four years (which means nothing really knowing that Starlight Express (the worst musical I have EVER seen) played for over 15 years), based on the music from Queen, written and directed by Ben Elton (of Blackadder and The Thin Blue Line fame), would turn out to be. I TRIED to stay positive...
Well, now I can say I've seen the Worst Musical I Have Ever seen where I still walked out smiling. Most likely because I was laughing AT it, but whatever, I was still smiling. And to explain the title of the post, much like bad anonymous sex (or so I hear), you know, well, it's still sex, but it was bad and you sort of feel guilty afterwards. That's how I felt coming out of We Will Rock You the musical. Giddy but dirty.
The story takes place 300 years in the future when Rock music has been banned by a corporation who controls all media (Radio Ga Ga). The hero Galileo Figaro hears music in his head and must fight the powers and search for the holy grail of music, the guitar from Queen that is buried in Wembley Stadium and is aided by his new girlfriend Scaramouche. No I am not making this up. And this is the PLAUSIBLE part of the story. The rest I just couldn't even comprehend so I won't even bother.
I've never been a huge Queen fan (most likely because I grew up when Wayne's World was all the rage and every guy who thought he was cool had to re-enact the "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene) but I have to admit, they did have a pretty fun repertoire of songs, some that I had forgotten that was theirs. So the music was great. That alone does not make a musical.
With the ridiculous plot, slim outlines of characters, infantile jokes including one about fisting (yah, seriously, and it's not a typo) and waxing the beaver, costumes left behind from Goodwill that even the poor wouldn't take, and the GAYEST choreographed dances in the world (and yes, I'm using GAY in the derogatory Isaiah Washington sense), all to the tunes of Queen, makes for one strange, tedious, and yet ultimately hilarious performance since I seriously was SO EMBARRASSED for the actors that I could NOT look them in the eye (which is hard when I'm sitting in the 2nd row lottery rush tickets).
Still, We Will Rock You was good enough in its badness to DEFINE "It's So Bad It's Good".
I can't believe its SOOO POPULAR and the audience LOVED IT and had a HUGE standing O... and I think they took it SERIOUSLY and not in the mocking way I did (were Toronto audiences just being nice? I actually think they truly loved it for real, but then again, they loved Wicked too and I thought it was banal and poorly executed). It's sort of the musical for the middle-aged white trash suburbanite who are trying to be cultured.
Seriously. it was the POLAR OPPOSITE of Spring Awakening. If SA is everything that is amazing and hopeful about the future of musical theatre, We Will Rock You is everything that is wrong with the future of musical theatre.
I will give though that most of the leads had quite amazing voices, particularly Alana Bridgewater as villain The Killer Queen (haha, get it?) and Erica Peck as Scaramouche. As for the lead Galileo, Yvan Pedneault had an AMAZING singing voice, but he is Quebecois and this, I think is his first English show, so he still had an 'EVY 'EVY French Canadian accent so you didn't understand a word he was saying (and I went to school in Quebec so I'm kinda used to it already), not that it really mattered to follow the incomprehensible plot between songs anyways (and since the songs themselves BARELY fit into the plot anyways, why try?).
It's kinda funny though, because of all the negative reader reviews I read about Spring Awakening (hates the no plot, little character development, great songs and great energetic cast, hates the mood) is probably the exact same thing I will say about We Will Rock You. Yet Spring Awakening made me feel something, whereas the irony in WWRY is that it's about the fighting the "man" and against corporate music but this musical felt more corporate than anything I've seen recently. Plus, if rock music has been banned for 300 years, why do they all know how to sing rock?