We Will Rock You, Kind of

It’s not rhapsodic, but the new Queen musical has its moments.

Photo: Paul Kolnik

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Such was my train of thought at intermission for We Will Rock You, Ben Elton’s (story and script) jukebox ode to Queen and the late, great Freddie Mercury. Directed by Elton, the musical, which tells the story of a group of bohemians trying to bring back rock music and save their futuristic planet, is, at times, as thin as Lana Del Ray’s voice. But, more has been made of less (Mamma Mia!, Rock of Ages); the real problem here is that it’s a tin man production, it doesn’t have a heart.

The hero rebel, Galileo Figaro (Brian Justin Crum), is easy to spot because amid a sea of pastel-clad kids doing the robot, he’s the one dressed as a stage hand (all in black) and grimacing like the tortured artist that he is. (He’s haunted by night terrors such as “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” and “Do You Think I’m Sexy?”). There’s also a misanthropic girl (naturally), Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis) who helps Galileo on his quest to save humanity through the restoration of rock and roll.

With a first half full of middling renditions of “Killer Queen,” “You’re My Best Friend,” and “Under Pressure” among others, I was feeling rather dour by the time I made to the concession line. Mercifully, the show improves significantly when the cast brings out the big guns including that pile-driving title tune, “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “We Are the Champions.” The highlight is by far the operatic, indelible “Bohemian Rhapsody,” so  anthemic and so rich with emotion that you’d swear Mercury himself was conducting it from the Great Beyond.

Played by an eight-piece on-stage band conducted by Rick Hip-Flores, Steve Sidwell’s orchestrations sound positively deluxe, particularly when guitarists Tristan Avakian and Bob Wegner let loose.

My final quibble is with Scaramouche’s rock ‘n roll makeover—she winds up wearing considerably less while Galileo adds a leather jacket to his loot. I’m all for the eye candy, but in this day and age, it should be distributed equitably among genders.

We Will Rock You continues through Oct. 27 at the Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph. Tickets are $18—$85. For more information: broadwayinchicago.com

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