Ah, yes! Once more the festive season is upon us. And what would Christmas be without a musical spectacular to bring us all together. Like mince pies, brussel sprouts, and family fights around a decorated tree, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a feel good, foot-stomping extravaganza to get us all pumped up to spend lots of money most of us don’t have, and spread joy, love and peace to all men (and women)...yadda, yadda, yadda.
In all truth, I have never really been much of a fan of musicals. Call me a sour old grape if you will, but I have always found that their happy-go-lucky outlook and endless sense of optimism always seems to make me want to vomit on the poor soul in front of me.
So, why go and see We Will Rock You?
Well, there are two reasons. First off, I have always been a fan of Ben Elton. Yes some of his books aren’t exactly Shakespeare (though ‘Popcorn’ and ‘This Other Eden’ are both fantastic). He is, however, arguably one of the finest stand-up comedians this country has ever produced and responsible in part for writing such classic shows as the Blackadder series. With his humour and political/social awareness, I was curious to see what approach he would have with a grand musical.
And the other reason?
All of the songs are based on those of a little known band called Queen. You may have heard of them.
The show is set in a time in the future where all music is created on computer by corporations for profit and all musical instruments are outlawed. Everyone is the same in thought and appearance, never questioning the world that has been created for them, governed by a power-hungry diva called Meat.
Rock is long dead. However, Galileo is different from the Ga Ga Girls and Boyzone. Voices from the past seem to come from him out of nowhere. Sweet melodies and rocking tunes with heart and soul. And he is not alone. Together he and an underground band of rebels seek to find a legendary guitar. With this they will teach the world to remember. Teach the world to sing again. To rock like the great kings of old. To rock like Queen.
Let’s get one thing straight here. Everybody is here because they want to hear the songs. It is all about Queen and very little else. The show knocks out all the classics. Perfectly played by a live band and stunningly sang by the cast. Freddie would have loved it.
The songs move the show forward at break neck pace and are backed up by a set that is an absolute feast for the eyes.
It is a stunning show. A wild and often funny celebration of a human desire – a human need – to express oneself and care little of how it looks and how it sounds.
It’s all about the feeling. And this caught on with the audience quickly who wasted no time in getting up to sing, dance and clap their way to the final bow. There was a wonderful sense of togetherness in the air which made the whole experience all the more beautiful and profoundly moving.
Beneath the blinding surface of the show, there is also a more serious note on individualism, freedom of choice and the sad direction that society seems to willingly tread. There are obvious echoes of 1984 here, which is no bad thing. It is not the first piece of writing to take influence from it and will most definitely not be the last.
The themes and message are important and shows like We Will Rock You make them much more accessible and perhaps, hopefully, guide people to the novel later. The show paints a picture of a world that we can all see coming and in some ways are already partially there.
Cities are all starting to look the same. Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC on every corner. And the people consume them whilst plugged into their iPods and mobile phones, feeding the machine but detaching themselves from one another. Or, in relation to the show, feeding the character Meat and detaching from Rock. Who knows, maybe it will one day be illegal to interact with one another all together and we will all just be slaves?
The characters in We Will Rock You have no real choice when it comes to the big decisions. The big decisions are made for them. Anybody with a sense of thought and choice is an outcast and will be dealt with.
It sounds all so familiar doesn’t it? But don’t worry. Do not despair. Because we do have a choice. When we retire to our IKEA catalogue homes every evening to hide from the dangerous terrorist/disease/drug/famine infested world outside (at least that's how our media would have it), we can choose from a million television channels to watch that advertise a million different beers, chocolates and ice creams that we can enjoy and help us not think about the ‘terrible’ world beyond our windows. Help us forget and close ourselves off to what’s really going on. Have a Bud! Have a Miller! Have a large bag of peanut M&M’s and get fat and stupid whilst watching The X Factor create yet another soulless ‘star’ with about as much musical know-how as a carrot.
Rock isn’t dead. People, come along now and again and remind us that. Galileo shows us that. He was the hero in the show and showed everybody the way.
I think everybody in the room warmed to him because we all know that we could all use someone like him right now. Somebody to grab us by our labelled £500 lapels and scream “You are right! You’re right! Not those money grabbing monsters that tell you what to do! You! You’re right!”.
And, thus, the spell would be broken.
Or at least we can hope.
If only life were a musical!