Yes, “We Will Rock You”
By Skip Sheffield
Does “We Will Rock You” fulfill its boast?
Yes indeed, absolutely! This high-energy tribute to British rock group Queen is rocking the Ziff Ballet Opera House of Miami’s Arsht Center through Dec. 15 in a way it has never quite been rocked before.
“We Will Rock You’ is a joyous tribute to the power of live rock ‘n’ roll music, using the extensive catalogue of Queen as framework.
Originally conceived as a jukebox musical by founding Queen members Brian May (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums), WWRY as we will shorten it was given a book by British novelist, comedian and director Ben Elton.
The futuristic, fascistic story is set in 2302 in a world where live music and musical instruments have been banned. The masses are entertained by programmed, computer-generated musical sounds broadcast by the all-powerful Global/Soft Corporation. A group of rebellious young, known as Bohemians, sense there is something more than the unimaginative “Radio Ga Ga” that fills the airwaves and Internet.
A guy who calls himself Buddy Holly (the amazingly deep-voiced Ryan Knowles) is convinced there is a seeker who will come along and wake everyone up to “The power of rock!”
That would be a young man who calls himself Galileo Figaro (Brian Justin Crum), who bumps into a kindred soul he calls Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis) in a song called “I want to Break Free.”
Those who know and love Queen know the names Galileo Figaro and Scaramouche are in the lyrics of Queen’s mock-operatic mini-masterpiece, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The characters are cast for stage charisma and vocal power. Brian Justin Crum has and impressive vocal range and rock-star good lucks. Ruby Lewis is a tiny, pretty woman with a voice all out of proportion to her diminutive size. If there is a star in this show, she is it. Hearing her duet on “Somebody to Love” is simply thrilling.
In a melodrama you must have villains. WWRY has Khashoggi (P.J. Griffith), with spiffy gray Global/Soft uniform, platinum helmet-hair and face that looks like it was sculpted from plastic.
Khasoggi’s female counterpart is the Killer Queen (Jacqueline B. Arnold), who is an amalgam of all the Disney evil female monarchs.
There is a chorus of imaginatively rag-tag killer chorus of singing and dancing Bohemians, backed by a massively powerful onstage nine-piece electric band perched on a scaffold high above the stage. The band has two drummers; one on either side; two keyboards, and two guitarists (Tristan Avakian and Bob Wegner) playing Brian May’s signature harmonic leads to perfection. The principal shredder comes down onstage on two dramatic occasions, and the entire band joins the cast at curtain call, which as a musician I appreciate.
It is no joke that ushers offer free earplugs who any who want them. This show is loud, but more important it is joyous and a fitting tribute to the genius of Queen singer-songwriter Freddie Mercury and his enormously gifted band mates.
Tickets start at $26. Call 800-745-3000 or 305-949-6722 or go to www.arshtcenter.org.