Saturday, April 26, 2014

"We Will Rock You" at Shubert: The Music Rules

The weekend visit of the touring show "We Will Rock You" (The Musical by Queen with British comedy writer Ben Elton)  at New Haven's Shubert Theatre pulled standing ovations Friday night thanks to a fast-paced show, energetic performances, strong voices and excellent musicianship. But the main draw is the Queen soundtrack, chock full of some of the best rock 'n' roll ever written and assembled.
The plot is pure nonsense, of course, but it occasionally produced some chuckles (with riffs on past rock lyrics mostly), a good laugh or two and avoided awkwardness most of the time. There's even a moment when it strikes a profound note, scoring points about modern folks having a million Facebook friends but no true friends, or the cultural trashiness of "American Idol" pop sameness and auto-tuned live music. There isn't much time between rocking tunes, so the thin futuristic plot is not a problem, in any event.
P.J. Griffith of South Windsor is fine as one of the megacorporation villains, appearing to be just some stiff straight man at first but showing his singing chops and stage flare on obscure Queen song "Seven Seas of Rhye."
It's impossible to avoid a Big-Time Theater Happy Place, meanwhile, during faithful versions of "Somebody to Love," "Killer Queen," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Flash," "Fat Bottomed Girls" and, of course "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions."
Any early bolters in the audience looked silly when the most amazing Queen creation of all -- Freddie Mercury's dying masterpiece "Bohemian Rhapsody" --  was played as the full-cast encore.
All the major players are capable (Ruby Lewis as Scaramouche and Brian Justin Crum as Galileo along with Jared Zirilli and Erica Peck as the lead Bohemians) but the real scene stealer in voice and comic emphasis was Ryan Knowles (at rear in photo above), who is hilarious as Buddy the Bohemian.
And the tunes, too, will linger in our heads after this fun night. Kudos to the band, led by Nate Patten.

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