Encore Michigan

Queen will rock you at The Barn

Review July 14, 2017 Bridgette Redman

AUGUSTA, Mich.–Sometimes you’ve got to accept a little camp in order to enjoy a romp through classic rock songs and a rollicking good laugh.

Queen: We Will Rock You won’t likely survive the ages, nor is it even the best example of a jukebox musical. But, it is an incredible amount of fun, inspires lots of laughter and pays tribute to the best of Queen’s music.

If you want to indulge in such a guilty pleasure, then head out to Augusta Barn, where they are putting on this British musical and milking every laugh out of it.

The device: It’s centuries in the future and Globalsoft has created a society scrubbed free of any individuality. Rock music is illegal and all musical instruments have been destroyed. The only acceptable music is programmed computer music. But there are people fighting back. The Bohemians have escaped the soul-free society and are trying to find the lost rock music—something they read about in the “elder scrolls” known as magazines.

Then, along comes the “dreamer,” a young man whose dreams are filled with lost rock lyrics. He rejects his website address name and dubs himself Galileo (Quinn Moran). When he meets another rebel, he tells her he has dreamt her name as Scaramouche (Samantha Rickard). You see where this is going, right? If not, let me direct you to the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody—which is the song the rebels are questing for.

Sure, most of the plot twists are just excuses to play Queen’s greatest hits. Even the eventual fate of the two villains—Killer Queen (Penelope Alex) and Khashoggi (Eric Parker)– are slightly anti-climactic in terms of story, but such fun musically that you’re inclined to forgive.

The cast has great fun with the music and really does it justice, despite some sound problems that cut mikes out at crucial moments. The Killer Queen’s grand and electronic entrance with “Queen Killer” was lost due to sound problems.

That said, Alex does a fabulous job with an over-the-top Killer Queen—a former computer program who downloaded herself into a body and took over the command of I-Planet, formerly known as Earth. She makes the Queen sexy, evil and pure science fiction villain. Every moment she is on stage is fun and is especially helped by the chorus who are synchronized to her every move. The “Another One Bites the Dust” is sung with gusto and the choreography is precise and illustrative. It’s great fun.

Likewise, Parker makes a great villain—a stark contrast to the Killer Queen but just as eager to wipe out the Bohemians. His rendition of “Seven Seas of Rhye” has him almost cackling with evil glee.

But the story really belongs to the “kids,” the rebels at the base and the two leads. Rickard is delightful as the cynical Scaramouche. She has some of the best lines of the show and she makes the most use of them. While most of the characters are cardboard in nature, hers actually has some depth. Rickard does a great job of making the character strong and sensitive, true to herself but eager to follow the quest.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a musical that would pass the Bechdel test. After Scaramouche tells the Ga-Ga girls how individual and non-conforming she is, she launches into “Somebody to Love.” Thankfully, the script let’s her redeem herself and Rickard is so good at the ballads, that it’s easy to overlook her being pushed into the role of companion—something she later takes a stand about.

Moran had a lot of fun as the confused dreamer who knew he had a destiny but had little clue what it meant. He knew how to strike a pose and play up the show’s silliness.

Dani Apple stood out as Oz (short for Ozzy Osbourne). She had great pluck and energy and it was a shame she got relegated to zombie status in the second act because she was pure delight to watch.

Director Brendan Ragotzy and Choreographer Jamey Grisham merged their visions to create a show that worked from beginning to end. They knew when to make things robotic and when to turn them loose. Time after time, they created stage pictures that amused and thrilled. Ragotzy made sure there was an energy that seduced the audience, eventually getting them to interact with the actors and join in with clapping and singing.

Payge Crock contributed to the storytelling with her spot-on costuming—from the grays and blacks of the Globalsoft minions to the retro color and splashes of the Bohemians.

And what could a Queen musical be without a rocking band? Matt Shabala led the orchestra as musical director and keyboard player and one of the musicians came out for a memorable jam at the end of the show.

Likewise Mike McShane contributed some great lighting to recreate that classic rock feel, creating special effects on the purposely sparse set (Samantha Snow).

It really can’t be said enough, “Queen We Will Rock You” is a production of pure entertainment and fun. Go prepared to laugh, to celebrate Queen’s greatest hits and to experience a show that is out of the ordinary.

Click here for show days, times and details.

Week of 4/23/2018

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