'We Will Rock You': Odd mix of Queen and camp

Ruby Lewis as Scaramouche and Brian Justin Crum as Galileo. Scenes and dialogue consist of bad jokes and undisguised attempts to segue into another Queen song.
Ruby Lewis as Scaramouche and Brian Justin Crum as Galileo. Scenes and dialogue consist of bad jokes and undisguised attempts to segue into another Queen song. (PAUL KOLNIK)
Posted: January 17, 2014

Fans of Mel Brooks and John Waters will love We Will Rock You, now in a touring production at the Academy of Music. Fans of Queen's music, not so much.

As someone who likes both Brooks' comedies and Queen's music, I can tell you the two styles don't mix well, at least not in Ben Elton's book. The storyline draws on Star Wars, 1984, A Clockwork Orange, and The Matrix. "Sometime in the future," tormented teenager Galileo (Brian Justin Crum) lives in a totalitarian state called the iPlanet, where everyone plugs into Globalsoft - a virtual world of video games, advertisements, and pop music.

Galileo's problem? He hears banned rock-and-roll lyrics in his head. When he meets the angst-ridden Scaramouche (Ruby Lewis), the two join a band of bohemian rebels hunted down by the Killer Queen (Jacqueline B. Arnold) and her henchman Khashoggi (P.J. Griffith).

On paper, it sounds straightforward and mildly interesting. In Elton's execution, it's an unintentionally campy parody of the films mentioned above. The bohemian rebel leader? A kung-fu fighting meathead named "Britney Spears." His No. 2: a historian who looks and talks like Otto, the stoner bus driver from The Simpsons (a character that's already a parody). Their hidden Rebel Base: a Hard Rock Cafe.

Scenes and dialogue consist of bad jokes and undisguised attempts to segue into another Queen song. When Galileo and Scaramouche first run off together, he says, "you're my friend" riposted with "you're my best friend." If you don't know what the pair then sing, you have no business or interest seeing this show.

Production values further cheapen the story. Besides the deafening sound design and blinding lighting, the videos playing in the backdrop look pilfered from 1980s B-films and one extended clip of Atari's Space Invaders.

Between them, Crum and Lewis manage Freddie Mercury's full vocal range and her soul-searing voice is the only reason to see this show. A solid seven-piece band plays on an elevated platform; every time they play or Lewis sings, it reminds of Mercury and Brian May's musical genius, and a songbook that did not deserve this parody.


THEATER REVIEW

We Will Rock You

Through Sunday at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets.

Tickets: $20-$105.50.

Information: 215-731-3333 or www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway

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