By Dale King
We Will Rock You, the jukebox musical that throws an aural spotlight on the poperatic music of the British rock group Queen and their flamboyant frontman Freddy Mercury, is shaking walls, vibrating scenery and winning over audiences at the Lake Worth Playhouse.
The single summer entry at the Lake Avenue performance center spreads 20-plus powerful Queen tunes over a 2½-hour performance. The show opened this past weekend to nearly full houses at every showing. Imagine. Real people sitting in real seats. And enjoying an intermission, too.
With story and script by English funnyman and playwright Ben Elton, the show that premiered at a West End theater in 2002 and played though 2014, hangs a lot of action on a fantasy sci-fi plot. The stage sets — with ever-changing view screen in the center — seem to mingle the innards from the computer-generated film Tron with American Idol.
Basically, the program shuttles the audience some 300 years into the future, to a new Earth called an “iPlanet,” where a group of Bohemians struggles to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion and music in a dystopian world. A Big Brother-style government has forbidden human vocals, banned musical instruments and crushed rock music, leaving humanity to find solace in computer tablets.
In other words, the Bohemians are searching for their “Rhapsody.” And if that doesn’t give you some idea of how the Queen songs are worked into the plot, try this one.
The show’s star — a “dreamer” who can hear lyrics and music in his head, but doesn’t know what they mean, is named Galileo Figaro (Chris Ombres). He hooks up with a “chick” (she hates the term) named Scaramouche (Jessica Fernandez), and together, they lead the Bohemians to find “the rock” — a musically hallowed place which, if visited by the appropriate person like Galileo, will lead to restoration of riffs, chords, harmonies and arpeggios lost “the day the music died.”
Yes, that’s a reference to Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Listen carefully and you’ll hear lots of lyrics from famous rock songs in the play’s dialogue.
Trying to keep the Bohemians from reaching their goal is a nasty corporation called Globalsoft, headed by a woman known as “Killer Queen” (Jamie Cleary). She orders the commander of Globalsoft’s police force, Khashoggi (Joshua Bramkamp), to stop the insurgency. Khashoggi, who, with his black togs and shadowy cape, resembles Darth Vader without the helmet, is all bluster and no substance.
Of course, Killer Queen takes time to sing “Killer Queen” while conducting an impersonal corporate meeting. Later, when she learns the Bohemians are no longer a problem, she intones “Don’t Stop Me Now.” But when she finds out Khashoggi let Galileo and Scaramouche go free, she cuts him down with a ray gun and sings “Another One Bites the Dust.”
Music from Queen’s repertoire helps move the action along. The production involves a lot of running and escaping. At the same time, Galileo and Scaramouche fall in love. Eventually, they face circumstances that test their love — and they break up.
The Bohemians gather in a place called “Heartbreak Hotel” when Khashoggi and his squad capture and torture them (“Flash” and “Seven Seas of Rhye”). Brit (Daniel Distasio), short for Britney Spears, and an associate of Oz (Jennifer Vasquez), short for Ozzy Osbourne, breaks free and battle the police to give Galileo and Scaramouche time to escape.
Ultimately there is finale, a predictable, but musically pleasing conclusion.
Director Debi Marcucci keeps this fast-moving production in check. She has also rounded up some exceptional singers for this performance who deliver the goods with great ensemble renditions, full-tilt rock duets and finely tuned group harmonies.
Plaudits also go to costume designer Jill Williams and her assistants, Joanne Deprizio and Linda Diloretto, who’ve devised some funky designs and outrageous outfits for this futuristic troupe.
We Will Rock You continues through Aug. 8 at the Lake Worth Playhouse, 713 Lake Ave., Lake Worth Beach. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 561-586-6410 or visiting lakeworthplayhouse.org.