Wednesday, July 09, 2014

"We Will Rock You" to Sleep Occasionally

Cast of We Will Rock You (photo Paul Kolnick)

We Will Rock You
5th Avenue Theatre
through July 13, 2014

The musical revue, We Will Rock You, now at the 5th Avenue Theatre, is supposed to use the iconic songs from Queen to bring a story to life. Throwing all the kitsch and hackneyed jokes into a story in the (near?) future where because all of life is lived on the internet there is no more live music (wtf?), a Dreamer finds himself seeing visions of gates and a Rock hanging in the air, and his very existence threatens the entire accomplishment of the domination of GlobalSoft, the ruling corporation.

Would it surprise you to find that the gates are to Graceland? The King is Elvis? The Rock hanging in the air is really "Rock and roll" ... a vision? And all of the Bohemians who want Rhapsody find their way there from following a vee-dee-oh-tap-ee?

There are moments that are actually funny, but most of them try so very hard that they fail. Efforts to inject even more topical references (twerking is supposed to be funny?) hit so hard on the funny bone, they hurt. The book of this musical is terrible. Flat out terrible.


The performers are, for the most part, quite capable of much better material. The lead woman, Ruby Lewis, playing Scaramouche (that's the best name in rock-and-roll that the Dreamer, Galileo, could come up with for her?) is a terrific belter and performer. She is easily up to the task of the young teen who feels like an outsider.

P.J. Griffith, as a corporate henchman, Erica Peck as Ozzie Osborn, and Jared Zirilli as Britney Spears all do a great job in their roles, such as they are. Ryan Knowles as Buddy Holly is so terrific, I hope he comes back so I can spend a lot more time watching him. He was versatile, funny, a tall drink of water, and totally great dancer. He pretty much stole the show, though frankly, that was the easy part.

I have to say that Brian Justin Crum, as Galileo, just didn't do it for me. He basically had no charisma with Lewis, and was terribly undermiked during the show. He sounded like he could mostly sing the music (not easy music, so he's probably a pretty good singer), but he came off pouty, grumbly, and low energy. There are probably several hundred if not thousands of men wanting to audition for leads in touring musicals. Why him? He would have been fine in the ensemble.

The ensemble was full of great dancers who pulled off generally fun choreography when called upon. The band was terrific, totally bringing the Queen music, though that alone could not compensate for the poor storytelling or script dialogue.

Also, if these young people were supposed to represent "the world" that GlobalSoft dominates, there are only two black women (one of them the Killer Queen herself) and maybe one Asian in the cast, so this dystopian future seems to indicate that diversity is also dead.

If you love Queen, you might forgive a lot of this musical, or you may feel disappointed. Some of the set ups for the songs then made the songs go "flat" and feel completely uninteresting. Iconic songs with lyrics changed to fit this "world" and story end up feeling like if they came out today, we wouldn't even make them a top 100 hit of the week. And you have to wait for the encore to hear Bohemian Rhapsody, and if that isn't an anticlimax, I don't know what is.