Since 2002, over 15 million theatregoers in 17 countries have seen the hit Queen and Ben Elton musical We Will Rock You.
Having enjoyed a 12-year run in London since 2002, over 15 million theatregoers in 17 countries have seen the hit Queen and Ben Elton musical We Will Rock You. ominion Theatre, and several tours, the show is on the road again this autumn and heads to Leeds Grand Theatre next week.
We Will Rock You is set in a distant, dystopian future where Earth is called Planet Mall and its inhabitants wear the same clothes, think the same thoughts and exist in a brain-dead haze. This system forbids musical instruments and composers, whilst rock music is all but unknown. The musical tells the story of Galileo, Scaramouche, Killer Queen and the other ‘Bohemians’ and they try to discover the Holy Grail of Rock and restore the free exchange of thought, fashion and live music.
Speaking about the process he underwent to write the script, Ben Elton says it became clear to him that the story had to comprise an abstract quality. “I began to think of legends, both new and old, from King Arthur to The Terminator; heroic myths in which brave individuals take on the vast monolithic force of evil systems.”
Equally as impressive as the show created from their musical canon are Queen legends themselves, Brian May and Roger Taylor, who had early reservations about staging a musical.
“We were not initially convinced, not being fans of the musical theatre genre on the whole,” says May. “The show needed to work in a theatrical context and retain the rock, whilst also incorporating the spectacle, uniqueness and humour embodied by Queen.”
This was certainly an important aspect to include for Taylor. “We took the music seriously, but we never took ourselves seriously,” he says. “We always had the ability to laugh at ourselves. Some of the stage gear and even some of the music is quite humorous. The whole middle section of Bohemian Rhapsody was – we did a lot of daft things and a lot of experimentation.”
It was therefore important to do something new. “If we were going to go into this arena,” says May. “The challenge was that we would somehow try and make it our own.”
Fortunately, this challenge was both accepted and triumphantly overcome. The show is fun, light and humorous, yet also contains those softer and, at times, heart-rending moments, which allow an audience to emotionally invest. Elton describes it as “intriguing, challenging, achingly romantic, brutally cynical and at once both sad and hilarious”.
Thematically, We Will Rock You couldn’t seem more relevant today. With the modern-day focus on technology, reading and the marriage of minds seem to have become out-dated activities and May recognises the musical’s significance today. “I think it’s a very good comment on the way things are going. Ben’s idea that individuality is being eroded and soon it will be impossible for people to write their own music or even think their own thoughts, is very perceptive.”
The tour also offers younger generations the chance to discover Queen’s music. “I had this strange thought that it’s quite possible that this musical might be the thing through which people know our music in 300 years’ time,” says May. “I’m quite shocked at how fresh this stuff still sounds.”
We Will Rock You, at Leeds Grand Theatre, November 11-23, Hull New Theatre, January 13-18, Bradford Alhambra, February 17-22.