The Musical by Queen & Ben Elton – Royal & Derngate – Northampton
My earliest memory of the rock band Queen was their third single, Seven Seas of Rye. After performing the song on the BBC’s Top of the Pops in February 1974 & receiving plenty of Radio One airplay, it became their first hit single, reaching number 10 on the UK Singles Chart, which apparently convinced frontman Freddie Mercury to take up Queen as a full-time career!
Flash forward to Live Aid 1985 and Queen delivered a searing set that took the Wembley audience, and 1.9 billion television viewers, by storm. Queen simply stole the show with a twenty-one minute six-song set opening with a shortened version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and closing with “We Are the Champions”. Mercury at times led the crowd, singing in unison. His sustained note “Aaaaaay-o” during a cappella section came to be known as “The Note Heard around the World”. The greatest live performance in the history of rock, who would vote against it!
I went along to see the Queen musical We Will Rock You which is showing at Royal & Derngate, Northampton for the first time on its 20th anniversary tour. There were no empty seats in the auditorium such is the demand for tickets! We Will Rock You is a jukebox musical based on the songs of Queen and built around a book written by comic Ben Elton. WWRY has enjoyed extraordinary success in theatres and arenas all around the world since it was first performed at the Dominion Theatre, London twenty years ago. Ben Elton, the godfather of stand-up comedy is also back in the Director’s chair.
Ben Elton has said: “I can hardly believe it’s been 20 years since We Will Rock You premiered in London. Or that much of what we thought was science fiction in the script back then has turned into science fact! I guess Queen were always ahead of the game! I’ve directed this show all over the world and I can’t wait to bring it home to the UK with a brand new production and a fabulous cast of young Bohemians, most of whom were rocking in their cradles when this adventure first began.”
The musical extravaganza, which has been watched by over 16 million people in 19 countries, features 24 of Queen’s greatest hits including Radio Ga Ga, I Want to Break Free, Somebody to Love, Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Don’t Stop Me Now, Under Pressure and, of course, We Will Rock You! If you love the music of Queen you will probably have already seen this show several times over but I was looking forward to being rocked and I was not disappointed!
This musical is set in the future where there are no musical instruments or live music and everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same way. A handful of rock rebels, the Bohemians, fight back against the all-powerful company and its leader, the Killer Queen. The two outsiders Scaramouche (Elena Skye) and Galileo (Ian McIntosh) decide to join the Bohemians to help restore free thought and fashion and along the way find the power of freedom, love and Rock! The Seven Seas of Rhye becomes a place where the Bohemians are taken after they are brain-drained by Khashoggi (Adam Strong)!
There you have it! Confused?
The storyline and plot to the show doesn’t really matter, in fact I found it very puzzling, but the show is a fantastic way to experience what it may have been like to have seen Queen live, without doubt one of the world’s greatest ever rock bands and probably one of the loudest! Sometimes the show had a little too many corny one liners, but the vocals were often outstanding and I found myself singing along and dancing my feet to the now iconic & familiar tunes. The show has been clearly updated over the last twenty years with many recent & topical references including Doctor Who and the pandemic!
What a brilliant show! WWRY is an amazing show with plenty of excellent singers and musicians and the stage set and costume pieces were visually stunning. A great cast which could not be faulted in any way. The audience soaked it up and were all on their feet at the end of a wonderful evenings entertainment. I would not have missed it!
WWRY reflects the height and vision that marked Queen’s live shows and earned Queen its rightful position as one of the greatest bands in the history of rock. If you were not fortunate to catch Queen live this is definitely the next best option. I would fully recommend WWRY as a great evening out with a group of friends, even better dress up for the occasion! You don’t have to be a fan of Queen to enjoy this show. Far better than catching one of those many Queen tribute bands. Just don’t try and follow the storyline too closely!
We Will Rock You can be seen all this week at Derngate until Saturday 26 March at 7.30pm, with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesday and Saturday. Only limited tickets remain so be quick! To book, call the Box Office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.