Ben Elton in his own Queen musical? You wouldn’t rush to rhapsodise about it… PATRICK MARMION reviews We Will Rock You
Not even the sight of Ben Elton in a cheesy Bjorn Borg wig and headband was enough to save the Queen tribute show, which crawled back into the West End for 12 weeks last night.
Yes, it hit the jackpot for 12 years after its premiere in 2002 before going global. And yes, Queen guitarist Brian May supplied an electric solo accompanying Bohemian Rhapsody at the end.
But with tickets averaging around £100 a head – and heading north to a handsome £150 – theatre-goers can reasonably expect more, especially at a further cost of nearly three hours of their time.
Editing, though, has never been the strong suit of Elton, a former motormouth comedian, prolific Blackadder TV script writer and author of some 17 novels.
We are subjected to a sometimes incomprehensible post-apocalypse schlock rock saga set in the sci-fi future where all music is strictly controlled by the ‘Global-Soft’ corporation – and yet everyone, everywhere, constantly bursts into song.
Not even the sight of Ben Elton (pictured) in a cheesy Bjorn Borg wig and headband was enough to save the Queen tribute show, which crawled back into the West End for 12 weeks last night
No gag is too lame in Elton’s dialogue, which recycles lyrics from ancient rock anthems
No gag is too lame in Elton’s dialogue, which recycles lyrics from ancient rock anthems. Our befuddled hero Galileo Figaro (Ian McIntosh) does, however, prove himself a karaoke ace as he emulates Freddie Mercury’s vocal gymnastics.
Not so Mr Elton. Casting himself as bohemian rebel leader ‘Pop’, he delivers Mercury’s These Are The Days Of Our Lives with a damp, dispiriting amphibian croak.
At other times he raves like a conspiracy theorist grandad on talkSPORT. Nor can he resist a bit of anachronistic ‘British Rail’ political commentary (‘I can’t help it love, it’s in my DNA!’).
It’s an out of season pantomime that demands little or no acting skill. Even so, Elton is constantly ‘at it’: clenching fists, mugging and nodding – while glancing around with bent knees and slack jaw as if in search of a misplaced walking frame.
At the final preview I caught this week, the hard of hearing might have found themselves reaching for their hearing aids – to take them out.
Only Brenda Edwards as the wicked Killer Queen had the lungs and diction to contend with a ferociously amplified band.
Queen guitarist Brian May supplied an electric solo accompanying Bohemian Rhapsody at the end
With tickets averaging around £100 a head – and heading north to a handsome £150 – theatre-goers can reasonably expect more, especially at a further cost of nearly three hours of their time
As her General and side-kick Khashoggi, Lee Mead is a no-thought-required panto villain, and Elena Skye’s plucky, Cyndi Lauper-ish emo-heroine Scaramouche is almost entirely eclipsed by the band’s sonic boom.
Derelict sets are augmented by third generation video graphics including Space Invaders. And routine choreography ranges from robotic Tai chi, to hip thrusts and boob shuffles – leaving ticket holders to wonder where their money went.
More dogged sections of the audience do sing and sway along, and their patience is rewarded with a sparky rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody at the very death – plus, of course, May’s (not to be repeated) guitar solo.
As for me and my 19-year-old control group daughter, we were left longing for the hammer to fall. Verdict: Another one bites the dust.