Metropolitan Players shine in bring Ben Elton's We Will Rock You

A MUSICAL which uses well-known songs by British rock band Queen to send up horror story films would seem to be an unlikely candidate for a hit status. But, as the songs performed at the launch on Wednesday of the Newcastle musical theatre company Metropolitan Players’ production of We Will Rock You showed, it will have audience members laughing and applauding loudly.

The musical will be staged at the Civic Theatre from August 22 to September 1 and is likely to further enhance Metropolitan Players’ reputation for drawing large crowds to its shows. Last year’s Les Miserables set a new box-office record for the 89-year-old theatre.

We Will Rock You, which premiered in London in 2002, has been a hit in its professional productions. The initial production played for 12 years in London’s biggest musical theatre, and Australian productions staged since 2003 have also had extended capital city seasons. When the show was made available in late 2017 for non-professional stagings, Australian companies eagerly applied for the rights.

The musical is set 300 years into the future, when planet Earth has become the iPlanet. Metropolitan Players’ president Graeme Black noted at the launch that iPlanet’s inhabitants have to listen to computer-produced music because rock music is banned. A Bohemian group rebels against the ban and begins presenting rock songs, with authorities intent on stamping them and their music out.

The launch featured five songs from the show, with the actors in colourful futuristic costumes and many having weird hairdos. The songs included Under Pressure, I Want It All, Killer Queen, Hang On, and We Will Rock You. The show has 18 Queen songs overall. 

The leading performers in the songs included Wendy Ratcliffe, who plays the villainous iPlanet ruler, Killer Queen, Dain Watts as her police commander, Khashoggi, Dave Geise as Galileo, who leads a revolt, and Bec Kynaston, as his offsider, Scaramouche. The show is directed by Julie Black, who has directed all but one of Metropolitan’s shows in the past 36 years.

A production of We Will Rock You was staged by Gosford Musical Society in March, with the futuristic setting including a statue of Freddie Mercury, the inaugural lead singer of Queen who died at age 45 in 1991. Gosford Musical Society has loaned the statue to Metropolitan Players for the Civic production.

Graeme Black noted that playwright, director, actor and comedian Ben Elton, who wrote the musical’s script, has regularly updated it.    

  • Ed: An earlier version of this report listed the opening date as August 27. This was made in error. The opening date is August 22.