Ruby Lewis & Brian Justin Crum star in the national touring production of “We Will Rock You.” | PHOTO BY PAUL KOLNIK
‘WE WILL ROCK YOU’
When: Through Oct. 27
Where: Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph
Info: (800) 775-2000; www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Run time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
Late in the first act of “We Will Rock You,” the flashy but mindless jukebox musical spun around the songbook of that enduring British band, Queen, the “bohemians” gather at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas. They are a ragtag group of underground rebels who have managed to escape the homogenized digital culture of the Globalsoft corporation, and make their home amidst the remnants of some culture they instinctively covet.
The Cafe is a strange archival hideout — a place where everybody bears the name of an iconic rock star (from Aretha to some guy named “Pelvis”), and where there is a big bronze sculpture of “Freddie” (as in Mercury), though no one has heard the music created by any of them. The only thing left, aside from vintage 1970s outfits, rock concert posters and a rusted Harley Davidson, is the sense that maybe there is a sacred text embedded on a surviving DVD tape that will be the key to something soul-filling that existed long, long ago.
Are you still with me? Or have you been blinded by all those Globalsoft laser lights and the long haul that is the show’s goofy sci-fi book by British writer-director Ben Elton?
Although “We Will Rock You” has been around for 12 years (in London and far beyond, though not on Broadway), the production now making a brief stop at the Cadillac Palace Theatre is a newly tweaked (and mildly twerked) version designed for its U.S. tour. And the essential premise remains: In the distant future, iplanet (formerly known as Earth), is a place where everything, including love and friendship, is virtual, and the world has been robbed of the freedom and individuality of rock music.
There is a central romance, of course, between Galileo (Brian Justin Crum), the wannabe liberator, and a fellow high school rebel with a feminist streak he names Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis, a petite firecracker with a big voice, great legs and dance technique to go with them). There also is a reverse-named punk pair — Oz (Erica Peck), as in Ozzie Osborne, and Brit (Jared Zirilli) as in Britney Spears, and a straggly hippie, Buddy (amusing Ryan Knowles).
The evildoers include a Killer Queen (Jacqueline B. Arnold), in cliched “angry black woman” mode, and her sadistic security commander, Khashoggi (P.J. Griffith). They rule over teens who look like extras from either “Xanadu” or “Glee.”
The excellent eight-piece band sits on a bridge above the stage and knocks out two dozen Queen classics, with “Somebody to Love,” “Who Wants to Live Forever” and “Under Pressure” (written with David Bowie) leaving the strongest impression.
The show, heavily tricked out with eye-popping video, is meant to be satirical, but in too many ways it ends up being the very thing it tries to disparage — a sort of numbing Radio GaGa spectacle. This did not, however, prevent a multi-generational audience from swaying in their seats, their arms waving in the air.