One of the things I found most interesting on my trip to Paris - besides the fact that no passport, luggage or airport security checks were necessary -was the age range of the audience there to see "We Will Rock You," the stage show that celebrates the music of Queen.
It has been almost 30 years since vocalist Freddie Mercury, guitar player Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor, and bass player John Deacon, collectively known as Queen, had their first hit on Billboard’s Top 40 chart. It was 1975, and the tune was called Killer Queen. Over the next 17 years, Queen had a dozen more songs achieve Top 40 status. Two of those songs - Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites the Dust - made it all the way to the No. 1 position. There were also Gold and (Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy Little Thing Called Love) Platinum (We Are the Champions and Another One Bites the Dust) singles. Two years after Mercury‘s death, Queen hit the charts again. This time around, it was the group’s surviving members, along with George Michael (former lead singer of Wham!), performing Somebody To Love. In 1993, this interpretation of the song was recorded live at Wembley Stadium during the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.
Recently, in the almost full 1477-seat Le Theatre des Arts at Paris Las Vegas, my 15-year-old grandson and I (getting precariously close to 65) were examples of the young people and seniors all enjoying the same theater experience, albeit for different reasons. For the older generation, perhaps the familiar music of Queen rekindled memories of decades ago. For the "kids," the costumes, special effects and references to today’s contemporary artists keep them interested and happily entertained for two hours.
Originating in London in 2002, the only North American production of "We Will Rock You" opened at Paris Las Vegas on September 8, 2004. Although the production contains some dialogue of an adult nature, for the most part, it is nothing the youngsters (over the age of six, please) haven’t heard before on TV, at school and/or in their own homes. There have been changes implemented to make the show more Vegas-oriented. Set in the future, in "a place that was once called Earth," the creators have a good time, at the expense of our fair city, poking fun at some of our most revered entertainment icons - Wayne, Celine, and all that is Cirque. There are also some funny references to other things we currently hold sacred - for example, American Idol and its acid-tongued judge Simon Cowell (incorrectly spelled Cowel in the opening videos), who is blamed or credited (depending how you look at it) for "cloning pop stars." When the concerned character of Khashoggi questions, "Tell me Galileo. Who were The Partridge Family?" to which Galileo responds, "I don’t know...but they lived in a bus. And the mom was hot, and there was a really irritating little redheaded guy." It was also the observant Galileo who talks of "this fabulous Canadian woman" who once performed in Las Vegas, and "who’s heart must go on...and on, and on. Her costumes were incredible...I mean really exquisite. I dreamt I tried to see it twice, but could I get a ticket?"
In this rock-comedy musical, written by Ben Elton, the story is somewhat similar to the plot line of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (not to be confused with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911) where books are burned. The difference is, in this case, it is musical instruments that have been destroyed and the sound of rock is but a fading memory. There are tributes to departed musicians - Karen Carpenter, Patsy Cline, Marvin Gaye, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams and, of course, Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury. Audience members can even get a look at how writer Ben Elton envisions Elvis’s Graceland and Las Vegas decades from now.
The strong 41-member cast, culled from auditions around the country, delivers the goods - both vocally and visually. They are backed up by an equally talented live eight-piece orchestra. Portraying characters named "Britney," played by an African-American MALE ("Ms. Spears" never sounded so good); Clay (in honor of the "American Idol" runner up); Aretha (and you thought Ms. Franklin had attitude); Ozzy, Madonna, Jessica and Wayne, to name a handful, the actors/singers perform Queen favorites including the title song, "Somebody To Love," "Killer Queen," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Another One Bites the Dust," "We Are the Champions" and the grand finale, "Bohemian Rhapsody." The all-age audience is enthusiastic and more than willing participants in clapping along, singing along and waving their arms from side-to-side during the appropriate songs.
I give "We Will Rock You" a strong "C+" rating. The Cast excels. The dialogue is Clever, Current and C with enough digs at today’s eye-candy and ear-aches to keep skeptics amused throughout. The Choreography, by Arlene Phillips (Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Starlight Express, et al), is original and the Costuming, designed by Tim Goodchild, is Colorful and Creative. Save your pennies until they add up to dollars, and go C "We Will Rock You."