“We Will Rock You” at the Orpheum Theatre: We are the Chump-ions

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I don’t want to say I hated it, but I did in fact hate it.

I saw We Will Rock You at the Orpheum Theater.  It is running from November 19th through the 24th.

We Will Rock You is the story of a future without rock and roll when earth is under the control of a music-oppressing former video game character, all set to the music of Queen. I honestly have no idea who thought this storyline was a good idea. The storyline opted for the cliche, the script took any shadow of remote humor, and beat it to death with repetition and extrapolated use.

I feel that for it to be a musical about a world without music means that it has to have some deeper metaphor or allegory. To sing about the lack of music; to rock about the lost culture of rock, this has to be self parody or something. But it felt to me that the entire thing was played way too straight to be safely called a work of parody. If it was self-parody, as I severely hope it was, it did a very poor a job of this.  If it wasn’t, I can’t help but feel almost angry at them– expecting to garner profit from such assumed ‘Theatre’.

For being a less than average storyline, the cast felt above average, and the music was fine, but the set and costumes had an impulse towards tacky; denim everywhere, leaving me to believe that jeans don’t in fact go with everything and hair that just felt needlessly big/showy. Ornate ‘futuristic’ dresses that actively assaulted my belief in the aesthetic (gold, frills) and ‘stylish’ jackets and coats worn without shirts underneath.

By all means, the covers were perfectly decent covers of the rebel anthems of Queen; but realize that all the rest of the show’s elements only detract from the experience.

The sets were mostly tolerable, dystopian future of rubble and without being too overdone, save for the incandescent video screens that often inhabited the background. I couldn’t tell what irritated me more: the fact that they kept changing and moving or that anything that ever inhabited it ranged from tacky to tasteless; I’m 90% positive that their theme for the visual effects was 90’s educational video game graphic rejects. I could write an essay about my disgust with the product placement of the “Hard Rock Cafe”. I always thought that Theatre was above that, but thanks to We Will Rock You, I know now that I was wrong. I will be actively avoiding patronage at this show and said ‘Cafe’ forevermore.

Before that night, I thought the whole genre of ‘Rock as a weapon to save the world’ was a ploy for out of touch executives lacking creativity trying to sell ad time for sugary cereals marketed towards 6 year olds. I was under the impression that the whole ‘band/super hero’ thing was generally regarded as tacky, gaudy, and ineffectual in capturing the nuances of both lives (and the motivations behind the work of each). I regard with ire the whole self-righteousness of self referential branch of rock and roll. I’ve never been particularly enraptured or enchanted with rock, but I know enough that rock is better when they stop talking about it and start making it.

In the end, if We Will Rock You was parody or satire, it was played too straight, if it wasn’t, it should have been.  Or, better yet, not bothered with at all. The music of Queen is ripe for a musical: a feel good piece, political, poignant, crowd-pleasing work of art about gay rights or the Carter Administration. Or bus loads of kids on their way to their high school soccer/football/bowling matches singing We Will We Will Rock… out of the open windows– something that resonates with all of us. They might have made a mistake naming the show We Will Rock You, it left me as an audience member failing to feel rocked.