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We Will Rock you is a love letter to rock and roll instead of a Queen tribute

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We Will Rock you: The Queen  musical was many things— a lot of ham, a little cheese and a whole lot of hilarity, but was definitely not a Queen tribute in the traditional sense of the word.The Killer Queen and Khashoggi in We Will Rock You. Photo submitted
 So while some  people  at the Enmax Centre, Jan. 19 were asking “ Who’s playing Freddie Mercury” (answer nobody), it was still a great time. Instead of a tribute, it was a spectacle and a love letter to not only Queen, but the spirit of  rock and roll.
 Plus, it was a chance for local performer Kyle Gruninger to strut his stuff on the big stage in the local “stadium” as the villain Khashoggi, right hand man to the Killer Queen. Gruninger had his own cheering section in the audience, who cheered from the moment his grinning, sun-glassed mug appeared on the big screen at the start of the show and almost drowned him out when he was on stage, towering over the set on a massive steel tower (one of several movable set pieces used for the show), belting out a delightfully inimitable evil cackle.


In a nutshell, We Will Rock You takes place in a not so distant dystopian future, where everything is controlled by Globalsoft, the kids dress like digitized oompa loompas,  everything is computerized so live music and musical instruments have been banned, you’re an outsider if you make your own clothes and “the only star out here” is the Killer Queen.”
Flying in the face of a boring , conformist society, as always, are a group of spunky rebels, this time called the bohemians, lead by the dreamer Galileo Figaro or Gal for short, who somehow dreams of old song lyrics and bands, though he has never heard of any of them, with rock and roll and live music being banned. He meets his love interest Scaramouch while running from  Khashoggi and his troops, who look like a troupe of Robocops, whose job is to crack down on these bohemians.
 On the run they meet another group of bohemians who are looking for a leader and living in the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe,  where the scattered remnants of rock and roll culture still remain to capture their imagination. They’ve even named themselves after rock and pop stars, though not what you’d expect—  Britney Spears is a man and Ozzy Osbourne is actually a cute blond girl who almost steals the show, reminding me of a demented P.J. Soles a la the Ramones movie “Rock and Roll High School.”


Though bohemian “Buddy Holly and the Crickets” also sings a lot of highlights.

Along the way, Gal and Scaramouch fall in love and lead the bohemians on a quest to find the “last axe.” During the quest they perform Queen’s biggest hits, drop a lot of band names and song lyrics to to their everyday dialogue and mispronounce things like video cassette for hilarious effect.
 The result is  a spectacle that would do Freddie Mercury proud. And as Queen guitarist Brian May signed off on the production, it’s all right by me. Perhaps as a tribute to May, when they do find the last axe in Graceland, the guitar itself is a copy of Brian May’s renown home build guitar.


 The female characters  the Killer Queen and Scaramouch, are strong, tough and smart, while the male characters are pretty much bird brained idiots, so it makes sense that when they find the guitar, that Scaramouch immediately shreds on it, while Galileo can barely play a chord.


 The live band, who definitely shred throughout the show, are hidden in the rafters, often completely hidden by one of several big moving screens, leaving the cast to run, frolic and mug throughout  without having to trip over  patch chords.
 The Queen classics are present and accounted for including “Killer Queen,” sung, of course, by the Killer Queen, “ I Want it All” and many others.


The songs move the story forward. The Killer Queen signs “I Want It All” as she and Khashoggi try to crush the bohemians. She sings “Another One Bites the Dust” as Khashoggi is killed for failing to do just that.

And “ I Want to Ride my Bicycle,” is performed while the bohemians decide how to get to Nashville from Las Vegas, instead choosing a Harley Davidson, mispronounced as Harleee Daveedson” for comic effect.


Both the Killer Queen and Scaramouch had big, beautiful, soulful voices. Gruninger, playing to his hometown crowd,  showed off a magnificent mid range rather than the high tenor he he usually sings in.
 He stole his scenes as a comedian, but also belting out “Seven Seas of Rhye.” as well as a beautiful duet with the Killer Queen on “It‘s a Kind of Magic.”
 The show ends with most of the cast performing “ We Will Rock You,” but that isn’t it. A big screen beckons “ Do You Want to Hear “Bohemian Rhapsody.””
 Of course everybody  does, so the entire cast returned for Queen’s best known hit, dancing through the audience along with the band.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor

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