A hit in London, “We Will Rock You” features two dozen hit songs and a story set in a despotic future.
When it premiered in London in 2002, “We Will Rock You,” a musical based on the songs of the British band Queen, received a lot of raspberries. The show, set in a homogenized future where one giant corporation controls all ideas, and people are mindless automatons, was called “ruthlessly packaged and manufactured” by the Guardian.
“It wasn’t just bad, it was traumatizing,” the review said. The Daily Mail called it “shallow, stupid and totally vacuous.” And the critic for the Daily Mirror suggested that show creator “Ben Elton should be shot.”
The stinging notices did not deter the masses. “We Will Rock You” is still playing at London’s Dominion Theatre, even if it has not fared as well in the United States.
The musical had a 13-month run in Las Vegas that began in 2004. But it has never made it to Broadway.
Now it’s making another go at the United States, this time working through the provinces with no talk yet of a New York engagement.
A 24-city U.S. tour launched in Baltimore on Oct. 15, and opens Tuesday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.
“It’s a powerful story with great music,” said Brian Justin Crum, who plays Galileo Figaro, a character based on the late Freddie Mercury, Queen’s lead singer.
The concept used in “We Will Rock You” is similar to that deployed in “Mamma Mia!” Elton created a fanciful narrative, in this case about an Orwellian society controlled by GlobalSoft and bereft of personal freedoms, including the kind championed by rock music. But there are Bohemian rebels out there who hear long-lost music.
Elton, along with musical supervisors Brian May and Roger Taylor from the original band, drew about 20 hits from the Queen catalog, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and the foot-stomping, hand-clapping title anthem that is heard at sporting events worldwide.
The names of the characters are all drawn from Queen songs.
The American reviews of the show so far have been mixed.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review praised the cast’s “terrific, powerful voices.” But Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune needed a drink after seeing the show, which he called “incoherent.”
Twin Cities audiences will get to judge for themselves on Tuesday.
Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390