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  • September 19, 2014

The Tunes of Queen Will Rock You at The Fox: Musical Review - Ladue News: Arts & Entertainment

The Tunes of Queen Will Rock You at The Fox: Musical Review

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Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014 3:40 pm | Updated: 3:51 pm, Mon Mar 24, 2014.

Story: On an iPlanet 300 years in the future that formerly was known as Earth, people live regimented lives. They dress alike, they act alike and they even listen to the same music that is cranked out by the omnipresent GlobalSoft Corporation under the instructions of the oppressive police overseer, Commander Khashoggi.

A few individuals, though, struggle against the oppressive society that is under the tyrannical rule of the iron-fisted Killer Queen. These “Bohemians” live underground, awaiting a leader who will rally them to fight for their right to self-expression, including their love of rock music. They find this inspiration in the person of Galileo Figaro, a young man who claims to hear strange musical interludes in his head that seem to come from Earth’s vague and distant past.

When Galileo meets an abrasive young woman named Scaramouche, sparks fly as he tries to befriend the rebellious outsider. Eventually, though, they form a bond, are embraced by the Bohemians and lead the quest for musical freedom.

Highlights: Since its opening in London’s West End in 2002, this jukebox musical built around 24 songs by British supergroup Queen has become the 9th-longest –running show in West End history. Apart from a version that ran for one year in Las Vegas in 2004-05, the current touring production marks the American debut for the enduringly popular show.

Written by Ben Elton and featuring the music and lyrics of Queen (John Deacon, Brian May, the late Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor), the touring show features an updated script by Elton that reflects contemporary, topical references. No matter, really; the hokey story definitely plays second fiddle to the pulsating, rocking score comprised of two dozen hits by the British hit-making band that first hit the big time circa 1970.

Other Info: While the music is performed at an unpleasantly high volume much of the time, there’s no mistaking the musical genius of Queen’s compositions, which are musically tight and lyrically inventive. Ruby Lewis leads the troupe with an energized performance as Scaramouche, belting out rock tunes with a fervor that is matched by her winsome ability to shape ballads as well. She is a rocking, infectious force of nature whenever she’s on stage.

Brian Justin Crum delights as the confused but appealing Galileo, impulsively blurting out song lyrics to centuries-old rock tunes that somehow have survived in his subconscious. P.J. Griffith is reminiscent of villainous Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner as the slick, emotionless Khashoggi, while Jacqueline Arnold channels Tina Turner from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome as the haughty, self-aggrandizing Killer Queen. Jared Zarilli is a huge crowd-pleaser as the addle-brained but devoted Bohemian rocker wannabe, Brit, with Erica Peck as the ditzy Goth girl Oz and Ryan Knowles as the imposing Buddy.

Nate Patten serves admirably as both musical director and conductor of the on-stage band, which performs on a platform above Mark Fisher’s inspired production design. The latter is glitzy and vacuous in its GlobalSoft depiction and austerely desolate in its depiction of the Bohemians’ underground lair.

The players romp in these settings decked out in Tim Goodchild’s costumes, which range from Killer Queen’s garish decadence to Scaramouche’s torn and tattered, rebel look. Kudos as well to John ‘Jack’ Curtin for the exaggerated hair and make-up design, Willie Williams for the harsh and probing lighting and to Fisher and Williams for their video direction that complements the action.

Elton directs everything in free-flowing, breezy fashion, augmented by the entertaining musical staging and choreography prepared by Arlene Phillips that accentuates the spirited Queen soundtrack. You’ll recognize familiar anthems such as We Are the Champions, Another One Bites the Dust, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, the title tune and even Bohemian Rhapsody -- if you wait for it.

Fun times abound in We Will Rock You, even if the plot is overly familiar and exceedingly silly. Simply get into your Queen groove and rock on.

Musical: We Will Rock You

Company: Touring Company

Venue: Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Blvd.

Dates: Through March 30

Tickets: $25-$66; contact 534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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