Chicago Theater Review: WE WILL ROCK YOU (National Tour at Cadillac Palace Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on October 23, 2013

in Theater-Chicago,Tours


A huge West End hit for over a decade, this compilation jukebox musical does for Queen what Mamma Mia! did for ABBA, Buddy for Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and Jersey Boys for Frankie V. and the Four Seasons. But it’s much closer to the first example, if only because the plot is just a pretext. On top of a suitably snarky script by Ben Elton (creator of “Mr. Bean”), the payoff is the special delivery of Queen’s biggest hits—including “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are the Champions” and the title anthem “We Will Rock You”; it’s a promise well kept. Playing Chicago only through Sunday, this touring production, (L to R) Erica Peck, Ruby Lewis, Brian Justin Crum & Jared Zirilli in WE WILL ROCK YOU - THE MUSICAL by QUEEN and Ben Elton.staged by Elton, offers very accurate nostalgia as it connects the anarchy of rock with the warrior ethos that can make rock sound like the most military of music.

The plot that stitches together the songs (by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon) is a kind of mashup of Road Warrior meets Rent meets Footloose. The dystopian setting is a very commodified future: The all-controlling megacorporation GlobalSoft and the GaGa entertainment empire have taken over our “iPlanet,” cocooning it in virtual reality. A sort of Internet anesthesia has subdued dissent and individuality with interchangeable movies, clothes and thoughts. The ultimate crime is “anti-social-media behavior.” Music is strictly forbidden, even instruments—though ironically that doesn’t stop the songs from continuously coming from either side of the struggle.

It’s up to the breakaway faction of Bohemians holed up in the abandoned Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas to reinvent rock as they bizarrely assume the names of long-gone rock stars. This band of hopeful roadies and groupies are inspired and led by former Goth girl Scaramouche (Ruby Lew) and her occasionally uncertain Ruby Lewis & Brian Justin Crum in WE WILL ROCK YOU - THE MUSICAL by QUEEN and Ben Elton.champion Galileo Figaro/Gigolo (Brian Justin Crum). Galileo is haunted by mental blasts from the past of stuff like a “yellow submarine” and “blue suede shoes” upon which you must not step. (Elton has updated the offering to include the supposed death of Brittney Spears and the almost obligatory reference to “twerking” and Miley Cyrus, as well as the addition of a new song “You’re My Best Friend.”)

These signs of a lost rock legacy lure the lovers and their (non-Facebook) followers to the gates of Graceland where, with the rediscovery of Elvis’ electric guitar, rock finally and easily triumphs over standardized mediocrity—at least in the future. The victory of their hero journey and vision quest is celebrated by a huge cast in a contagious “megamix,” much like the ones that made Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Mamma Mia! continuing successes.

A vibrant video backdrop and cunning flying sets by Mark Fisher depict both extremes of this dysfunctional realm—the sleek boardroom, laser interrogation cages and flamboyant boudoir of the Killer Queen (carnivorous Jaqueline B. Arnold) and her nefarious henchman Khashoggi (P.J. Griffith) and the wasteland peopled by freedom-fighting, would-be rockers Oz (Erica Peck), Brit (Jared Zirilli) and Buddy (Ryan Knowles), all going above and beyond the call of rock.

No question, We Will Rock You sucks up to an audience like a Hoover. But then it’s singing to the converted, enough to end with the contagious conviction of a “crazy little thing called love.” Here the band and ensemble are the real champions.

photos by Paul Kolnik

We Will Rock You
Queen Theatrical Productions, Tribeca Theatrical Productions,
Phil McIntyre Entertainment and NETworks Presentations
presented by Broadway in Chicago
Cadillac Palace Theatre
scheduled to end on October 27, 2013
for tickets, call (800) 775-2000 or visit

touring through August, 2014
for dates and cities, visit

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit

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