EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 6, 2013

Theater Review: It Will Rock You!

Rock theatrical featuring music of Queen stops in Boston on first North American tour

By Tracey Dee Rauh
Managing Editor

---- — When arriving for opening night of “We Will Rock You,” reviewers were offered traditional press kits although they’d received electronic ones via email days earlier.

“We like to give them anyway,” a show representative said by way of explanation. “Some people just want to have something they can hold in their hands and feel.”

Therein lay the heart of the story behind this rockin’ musical, which is in Boston for a limited run at the historic Opera House.

“We Will Rock You” features 24 hits by Queen, the legendary British band that formed in 1970 originally consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). While frontman Mercury died of AIDS in 1991, songs like “We Are the Champions,” “Killer Queen,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Under Pressure,” and the 5-minute-55-second running “Bohemian Rhapsody” have kept the band alive and thriving across generations.

At the Opera House, this fact was evidenced by an audience comprised of people ranging from teenagers to senior citizens, all of whom were inspired to raise their hands and sway them in the air to multiple memorable hits.

No doubt, the music propels this multi-award-winning show created by the British comedian and writer Ben Elton, in conjunction with Queen’s May and Taylor. The story, however, gets at important questions about potential losses associated with our increasingly technologically driven society.

Set sometime in the future on a planet once called Earth, “We Will Rock You” features a world now controlled by a mighty corporation. Globalization has been accomplished: Everyone listens to the same computer-generated music, watches the same movies, wears the same clothes and thinks the same thoughts. Live performances and instruments are banned. No one remembers the days of soul-jerking rock-and-roll.

No one, that is, but Galileo, a teenager plagued by dreams fraught with classic rock lyrics and cultural references that he doesn’t understand. He’s quickly joined by Scaramouche, a fellow teen outcast who longs to embrace her individuality. Together they become the heroes for an alliance of rebel Bohemians, charged with breaking free from the mighty corporation and bringing rock back to the people.

“This show is all about legend,” Elton says. “We take the legend of Queen and create our own fantastical story of young kids battling a mighty corporation that wants to suppress their individuality and their love of music.”

Love of music is alive and well at the Opera House when “We Will Rock You” gets underway.

With a live band of rockers dressed in black situated on platforms rigged up above stage and strong voices in both leading roles and the ensemble, the show leads the players from one memorable Queen hit to another.

“Have you ever had a real friend?” Galileo asks Scaramouche.

“I don’t know, I gave up after 10 million on Facebook,” she answers.

The soon-to-be-lovers delightfully, if also predictably, break into “You’re My Best Friend.”

Brian Justin Crum as Galileo and Ruby Lewis as Scaramouche are outstanding. Crum is as pleasing to the eyes as he is to the ears -- a necessity for an actor portraying a heartthrob. And petite and girlish Lewis defies her stature with her powerhouse performance of “Somebody To Love,” and continues to do so with every number thereafter.

Other notables are Ryan Knowles as Buddy, Erica Peck as Oz and Jared Zirilli as Brit. They’re stellar with the Bohemians, especially in Act I closer, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” as well as showstoppers “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions.”

Some scenes feel overly produced, but that’s certainly by design even if at times contrived. And kudos to the writer for tweaking the script to keep it keenly relevant. There’s even a hilarious reference to Miley Cyrus twerking.

This show has enjoyed an epic 11-plus year run in London’s West End and is presented at the Opera House by Broadway in Boston as part of its first North American tour. An interesting fact is that due to its complexity, “Bohemian Rhapsody” never before had been performed live in its entirety by Queen or anyone else until it became the encore for “We Will Rock You.”

Another interesting fact out in a study released the same week this show debuted in Boston? A person’s brain is only capable of processing friendships with 150 people in a Facebook account.

Think about that while you’re driving to this show.

If You Go What: "We Will Rock You," presented by Broadway in Boston. Where: The Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston. When: Through Sunday, Nov. 10. How: Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 and by visiting www. BroadwayInBoston.com.