The ten-year British premium musical show of the Dominion Theatre about the rock legend Queen chilled my initial enthusiasm to the zero point of expectations with its new cast performing at the Edinburgh Playhouse last Thursday. The loud and flashy spectacle, poor vocal performance, chaotic stage play, with sudden and unexpected spot-ons, matched ludicrously the cheesy fantasy/dystopian/underground story of rock set in a completely globalised and computerised world some 300 years ahead from now. Ben Elton, the scriptwriter, admits that after Brian May and Roger Taylor approached him with the request to create a jukebox musical dedicated to Freddie Mercury, he accepted because, apart from the music of Queen, he has been largely influenced by the science-fiction film ‘The Matrix’ (only that the originals, the band and the film, are far better, and, strikingly, the latter is more prevalent than the former in his script).
The first West End production in 2002, with arguably acclaimed success, did not include any of the Queen members on stage, contrary to the latest productions, since May 2008, which have been with the solo participation of the guitarist Brian May. His appearance lifted up the spirits of the audience which granted him a warm cheering ovation on their feet under the sound of ‘’Bohemian Rhapsody ‘. The deux ex machina twist (not so much to deliver a happy end in the classical sense) with the sudden emergence of the brilliant Queen member on stage absolutely sold the show.
Galileo (the dreamer) played by Noel Sullivan was, sadly, not the star of the show. He held bare likeness with the proud predecessor of the role, Tony Vincent, who received a couple of serious recognitions (known to the American audiences also with the musicals ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘American Idiot’). Scaramouch (Amanda Coutts) overshadowed Galileo’s musical and acting skills and was rivalled by the Scottish debutee in the company, Jenny Douglas (Meat). For some unknown reasons, the female cast proved stronger than the male one – Meat excelled in the company of Brit (Leon Lopez) the same way Scaramouch grabbed the audience sympathy over Galileo. Ian Reddington’s characterization of Pop was among the most amusing and memorable images along with the distinctive presence of the Killer Queen (Tiffany Graves), a devised strong character, which was performed for the first time by Sharon Clarke and won the first Olivier Awards to the company for best support role in 2003, followed by the former X Factor singer Brenda Edwards. Unfortunately, Graves acting at times was better than her singing – her performance certainly missed the depth and richness of voice of Clarke and Edwards.
Judging by the audience reaction, the most enjoyable and deserving applause performance was that of the live playing Band and, indisputably, the songs of Queen. The revived musical (and its original in my opinion) ‘We Will Rock You’ bites the dust. It fails to play justice to the legendary rock phenomenon and its main drive – the incredible musician and inspiration, Freddie Mercury.