The enduring music of Queen rocked into Hanley this week as We Will Rock You arrived at The Regent Theatre.
Written by comedy legend Ben Elton, the musical is created entirely to showcase Queen classics, giving fans of the band the chance to hear the hits played live once again.
And this really is what the show is all about, the audience waiting for – and enjoying – every song.
Elton’s script is at times very funny, at times a little hammy, but it is never meant to be serious despite the searing insights it presents into our modern society.
Set in a dystopian future where making non-computerised music is outlawed, the world is run by GlobalSoft, headed up by Killer Queen (Jenny O’Leary). Brain-washed drones comply and conform, while anyone exercising free thought is ostracised or taken captive.
The world has, in short, become a screen-led nightmare – and this was written long before digital communication became the everything it has been over last couple of years.
Enter Galileo Figaro (on the night played by Damien Walsh), who has shaken off his numerical identity to chase the actual dreams that leave him speaking in bursts of song.
Fellow rebel Scaramouche joins his mission to seek out the Bohemians and find the secret that will help to rediscover music.
For fans of his previous work, the script is very Ben Elton, mixing light entertainment with intelligent cultural references but really its purpose is to serve as a vehicle for the Queen hits – and there are so many of them here, from Killer Queen, Radio Ga Ga and We Will Rock You, to One Vision, Hammer to Fall and Fat Bottomed Girls and many, many more.
Backed by a live band, the sound is phenomenal, and the individual performances from the cast are excellent, with the number of different characters need for different songs showing just how versatile Freddie Mercury’s voice was.
Every performance showed the depth of talent on display in this production. O’Leary as Killer Queen perhaps stole the show with her powerful renditions, especially The Show Must Go On. Interestingly, one of the lesser known Queen songs, No One But You (Only The Good Die Young), was another standout moment with a moving performance from Martina Ciabatti Mennell as Bohemian “Meat”.
David Michael Johnson is a joy to watch as Brit – his clothing was straight out of a 90s Guns ‘n’ Roses concert, his performance fizzed with energy and his delivery of Headlong was a highlight.
Stepping up to cover the role of Scaramouche, Anna Davey was truly excellent. A powerful voice, great charisma and a flawless performance.
And, of course, Walsh as Galileo was everything you would expect from the main protagonist, with a great voice and an engaging performance that built a rapport with the audience.
The characters of the show, Cliff (Michael McKell) and Khashoggi (Adam Strong) were both brought to life with colourful performances that led the comedic moments especially McKell, who was gifted the show’s best one-liners.
For fans of Queen’s music this is a good night out, but it’s not only about Queen; musical references are free flowing throughout. The storyline is a bit out there, but it always comes back to the music, which is what it’s all about really.
Escape from the world for a while and enjoy a night of Queen’s hits. We Will Rock You is at The Regent Theatre until Saturday. Tickets from Congleton Information Centre, in the town hall foyer (no booking fee, call 01260 271095) or the box office on atgtickets.com or 0844 871 7649. online.
(Photo: Johan Persson).