Why should you do the fandango? Below is a review of “We Will Rock You” by Ryan Robert Flores

Collectively waking up from our shared nightmare that was the pandemic, one of the most pressing questions on everybody’s mind is what would the theatre landscape look like as restrictions are eased. But we’re back, hopefully not worse for wear.

One of the first shows that is up on offer is We Will Rock You, a jukebox musical featuring music and lyrics by Queen, and a book by Ben Elton. It is simply one of the trippiest musicals ever made, full of high camp and spectacle, worthy of the title.

We Will Rock You follows the story of two fated lovers: the dreamer Galileo (Stuart Brown), and the goth outsider Scaramouche (Nicolette Fernandes) as they embark on a journey of self-discovery. Hot on their heels are the deliciously devious duo of Killer Queen (Londiwe Dhlomo), a computer simulation that was uploaded into the mind of their own programmer who now runs the dystopian world of iPlanet, and Commander Khashoggi (Craig Urbani), her loyal henchman and front for Globalsoft, the megacorporation that controls the minds of all inhabitants of iPlanet.

Hell bent on keeping the remaining people in an otherwise desolate planet docile and compliant, Killer Queen and Khashoggi employ mindless entertainment centered on online experiences that function almost like a shared stream of thought. Standing in their way are a small group of bohemians led by the flaky Buddy (Tiaan Rautenbach), and the wild and charming pair of Brit and Oz (Richard Gau and Danelle Cronje, respectively), and an old prophecy that freedom will return with the rebirth of Rock and Roll.

The plot, let’s just say, is… not Chekov. The material does suffer from the affliction most jukebox musicals have from day one. A band’s discography over any appreciable period is bound to be influenced in a hundred different directions. So when you’re building an original story, oftentimes, it sounds shoehorned. Queen’s music is no different. 

To say that what ensues is entertaining, though, strikes me as a gross understatement. The flimsiness of the premise and story aside, it is a whole lot of fun with powerful performances from the cast. Brown and Fernandes both build up on each other’s performances as Galileo and Scaramouche, both dazzle with strong vocals. Urbani as Khashoggi projects the kind of simmering menace that fills the stage whenever he prowls into it, tempered by an unflappable sense of humor that makes his performance so captivating. 

Dhlomo as Killer Queen is a particular favourite. The character is the most bonkers, most over-the-top antagonist, she is literally inhuman, almost. Part human, and part code, Dhlomo plays her with a cold, calculated precision without coming across as mechanical. Her voice soars. Full stop. She was a delight from start to finish.

All things considered, it was a great evening in the theatre. The technical aspects of the production is nothing short of polished and finished to a high sheen. While it has its structural problems, they are overshadowed by the sheer talent and heart that you find in the cast, creatives, and how they push themselves every night to build a show they can rightly be proud of, for their audiences.

The energy that you feel in the theater is real, sitting there, listening to those familiar songs cast in completely modern mold, it inevitably brings a smile to your face, and if you let it, you might just find yourself on your feet rocking with the rest of the audience.  We Will Rock You is a show that is a fitting welcome for theatre lovers into what will be remembered as the big thaw after being iced out by COVID-19. It is a whimsical, fun romp through the songs that defined more than one generation, and it should not be missed.

We Will Rock You is running until November 20, 2022 at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater, Circuit Makati. Tickets are available through TicketWorld. 

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