A freelance writer, reviewer and broadcaster passionate about South Australia's fabulous wine and food.
The enthusiastic Matt Byrne presents another of his spectacular productions at the Arts Theatre in Angas Street, with the South Australian premiere of 'We Will Rock You', the classic rock musical based around the songs of English band Queen.
Written in 2001 by Ben Elton with musical input from Roger Taylor and Brian May, the show initially received a lukewarm reception from critics, but went on to become a hit with fans around the world, eventually becoming one of the longest-running shows in London's West End.
The sci-fi theme tells of a strange future where live music, free thought and fashion are all taboo, with musical instruments totally forbidden. An anarchic group of bohemians want to change this, with dreams of finding the last remaining instrument hidden somewhere on the planet (now called iPlanet in a symbolic nod to modern culture).
The fairly involved script introduces several key characters in Galileo, a misfit in a graduating class of identically thinking Ga-Ga kids, who dreams of voices and strange words, Scaramouche, a girl ostracised by her classmates for her strange clothes and ideas, and Killer Queen, the boss of the Globalsoft Corporation, which controls the planet. Along the way, we meet the Bohemians (who bear names of past singers, such as Buddy Holly, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha and Britney Spears) and hear some pretty good music while they search for the mythical last instrument.
If this all sounds very complicated, don't worry, the real story is the music and there's plenty of that. The performers, mostly amateurs, do a sterling job of this, with some standout work from Danielle Greaves in particular, as Scaramouche. She has a great voice and carried her songs well - we couldn't believe it was her first ever amateur production! She could go a long way if she chooses to make this her full-time career. The female leads, in general, were very strong, with excellent performances from Kathryn Driver as Oz and April Stuart as Killer Queen.
Iman Saleh, as Galileo Figaro, put in a good effort but he needed more projection to carry the songs in Mercury style and there were a few moments when he just wasn't strong enough. Anthony Butler was a good choice as Brit.
However, the ensemble cast worked well together on the whole and there was some energetic work from all of them, with several good production numbers, well choreographed and enthusiastically sung. It was cleverly staged and the use of computer graphics within the set worked.
The Fat Bottom Band provided some appropriately boisterous backing but did get a little too loud straight after the interval, giving the two leads a tough few minutes trying to sing over them. And Patrick Maher did a damn good job emulating Brian May's guitar riffs!
This was the first Matt Byrne production I'd seen and I must say I was quite impressed - the man certainly throws himself heart and soul into it. Not only was Matt the Producer and Director, he performed as Buddy Holly and The Crickets and was also the promoter and publicity guru! Quite an effort.
So, overall, a thoroughly enjoyable performance, well performed, in a nice warm theatre and at a price that won't break the bank. And the final rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, complete with a stunning guitar solo, was absolutely spot-on!