Queen & Ben Elton
Queen Theatrical Productions, Phil McIntyre Entertainments, Tribeca Theatrical Productions
Blackpool Opera House
Jan 6-11, 2020; 2hr 35min. Also Palace, Manchester, Jan 27 - Feb 8; Alhambra, Bradford, Feb 17-22.
If ever a show delivered on the promise of its title – and in a town that knows a thing or two about rock!
There’s even a few bars of We Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside thrown in for good measure.
Little wonder then that it’s been one of this giant venue’s fastest-selling shows of recent times, with a near-capacity crowd for opening night. Wrapped around the music of Queen, its popularity will have been further boosted by the 2018 biopic about the band.
Then again, We Will Rock You has been a self-propelling success since Queen and comedian Ben Elton first devised the musical back in 2002. It had its regional premiere in Manchester seven years later, when lead guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor turned up for the encore.
No such luck this time round, but the show still bottles up Bohemian Rhapsody for its final curtain call, and that’s after two dozen other gold-plated hits from a remarkable music catalogue.
Ben Elton has wrapped them, loosely, around a story that pits Galileo Figaro (Ian McIntosh) and Scaramouche (Elena Skye) as leaders of a youthful Bohemian revolution against the Killer Queen (Jenny O’Leary). The characters spring naturally enough from the lyrics and song titles, while in between Elton weaves a lot of wry humour about rock music, some of it bordering on the bawdy. It’s been brought bang up to date with nods to gender fluidity, X Factor and music’s more recent newcomers.
The show has also been totally refreshed by a monumental staging design, from "entertainment architects" Stufish, further enhanced by stunning video projections.
This production actually outclasses the Manchester performances, not least thanks to an outstanding set of singing voices among the 22-strong cast.
McIntosh and Skye lead from the front, backed by a remarkably strong sound from a six-piece band.
A Blackpool Rock opera indeed!