'We Will Rock You' review — the electrifying show still rocks after 20 years

Read our review of We Will Rock You, written and directed by Ben Elton, now in performances at the London Coliseum through 26 August.

Bea Maynard
Bea Maynard

We Will Rock You: That’s the show's title, the cast's promise. And, they do nothing less. Twenty years after this futuristic masterpiece took to the stage, it continues to wow the crowds in this spectacular production, that is simply magnifico in some places and slightly gaga in others.

As the lights dimmed in the London Coliseum and the stage lit up, the anticipation from the audience about what was to come was almost electric. Freddie Mercury performed here in 1979, and now his huge collection of foot-tapping tunes fill the same theatre in a 12-week run. Frankly, it wouldn't have mattered what the cast did; it seemed that everyone was with them from the first piece of dialogue and right through to the final guitar chord.

Set 300 years from now, in a world where musical instruments are outlawed, Bohemians rebel against the evil corporation, Globalsoft, to bring back the power of rock. This dystopian world is now called iPlanet, and the set design whisks you away to the dystopian future Galileo (Ian McIntosh), Scaramouche (Elena Skye), and the other Bohemians live in, using lightning-speed set changes to go from iPlanet’s dingy suburbs to Killer Queen's headquarters.

Panoramic screens fill the entire stage, creating mesmerising graphics that almost have a cinematic feel. Trying to fill the largest theatre in the West End is no easy feat, but the entire creative crew and cast executed this phenomenally.

Jacob Feary’s choreography utilises the entire stage and the 20-strong, high-energy ensemble. The mix of ballroom, burlesque, and breakdancing provides tricky yet appealing choreography. This blend ensures the ensemble can seamlessly slide between being high school students, prison guards, or rock and roll rebels in a way that's easy to follow.

Director Ben Elton makes his stage debut as Pop, the rebel leader. Although some of his dialogue sounds like what the inappropriate man at your local pub would say, he gives a magnetising performance. He even gets in a quip about the privatisation of the national rail services — the crowd whooped and hollered about this so much he couldn’t finish the rest of his lines until they’d stopped.

The plot overrelies on topical satire, pauses for laughter, and overused song references, but whenever the cast breaks into one of the 24 Queen songs in this show, the storyline issues become irrelevant. The cast phenomenally executes every single tune in this score, expertly accompanied by Stewart Morley’s live band, who perform at the back of the stage.

Notably, Scaramouche’s (Elena Skye) rendition of “Somebody to Love” gives this infamous song a new life, making it a powerful ballad to portray her uniqueness to the other characters. Brenda Edwards, who first played the unusually likeable Killer Queen in 2009, showcases her mind-blowing vocal talent in several of Queen’s best loved songs.

Ultimately, this zingy production is a lighthearted theatre spectacular that showcases the true artistry of one of the best rock and roll bands ever lived. We Will Rock You doesn't take itself too seriously, but it still provides an expert tribute to music legends.

We Will Rock You is at the London Coliseum through 26 August. Book We Will Rock You tickets on London Theatre.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Photo credit: We Will Rock You. (Photo courtesy of production)

Originally published on

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