Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Stage

Review: 'We Will Rock You' at the Straz makes no sense but rocks anyway

TAMPA — Watching We Will Rock You goes something like this:

"That didn't make any sense at all, not even a little! But, whatever. Roooooock."

The musical that attempts to lay plot to the music of Queen is full of problems no one seems to care about, and maybe that's not always the worst. We'll get to the good bits in a minute.

First things first: The story is incredibly stupid.

It's set on the iPlanet, a futuristic world controlled by the Globalsoft Corporation and a Killer Queen (get it?). She has a crony with a Draco Malfoy hairdo, and together they enforce the laws of the land. Instruments are illegal and creativity is dead, which is weird because every five minutes they break into song while wearing sassy leather pants. But, whatever. Roooooock.

It's your classic "Ooga-booga, technology bad, Internet destroy humanity, grunt, punch" fable, resplendent with cliches. The "bohemians" are the good guys, trying to unlock the roooooock of the past and save all mankind.

A boy and girl bohemian conveniently team up, and even though they argue nonstop and are rude to each other, you know they must end up swapping spit in the end.

Now, let us hop off the high horse for a second. Yes, the story is totally contrived. This is not Jersey Boys, a jukebox musical that presents a textured true story in addition to tunes we cherish. We Will Rock You is something else.

We Will Rock You is creamed crab on a toast point. The script by Ben Elton is but a wee bread wedge, a platform to usher mouthward the famous music the crowd paid $46.50-$81.50 to hear at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. And folks appeared to enjoy the snack for which they came.

The musical, which critics hate and other people love, has a healthy fan base and longevity going for it. We Will Rock You premiered in London's West End in 2002 and has played around the world ever since, though not yet on Broadway. The tour in 2014 is updated with current references from Katy Perry to Lady Gaga to Miley Cyrus, complete with twerking.

Queen's music is entirely theatrical, ripe for the stage. You could plug Killer Queen or Under Pressure into any new Broadway show and the songs would hold up to a choral treatment. And they do.

The first real dose of pipes comes from friendless bohemian Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis), who sings Somebody to Love backed by a line of catty girls from her virtual high school. A major throaty voice lurks inside Lewis' tiny frame. Everyone started clapping Tuesday before she was even done, turning to their neighbor with, "Wow." Her male counterpart Galileo Figaro (Brian Justin Crum) is nothing to sneeze at vocally, either.

By the time Killer Queen (Jacqueline B. Arnold) launches into Fat Bottomed Girls and Another One Bites the Dust, the plot has fallen off the rails, and nothing makes any sense, not even a little. But, whatever. We soon get more roooooock kibbles in the from of Hammer to Fall, We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions.

If you can't handle half-baked plots, don't go. If you love the music of Freddie Mercury and friends and don't mind a silly story, go.

Note: You will get antsy waiting for a certain song not listed in the playbill. Fear not, it'll come. When the song finally emerged Tuesday, the men and women in theater-apropos suits and dresses started hooting, and one single lighter burst forth into the air of the orchestra seating area.

Roooooock?

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

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