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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Not a kind of magic
We Will Rock You premiere
The musical is a collaboration between the band, De Niro and Elton
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By Neil Smith
BBC News Online

After the success of the Abba-themed Mamma Mia, it was only a matter of time before another iconic band's back catalogue formed the basis of a West End musical.

That band is Queen, but fans expecting a biography of the group and its legendary front-man Freddie Mercury will be sorely disappointed.

Instead, producers Robert De Niro and Phil MacIntyre have hired Ben Elton to concoct a sci-fi fantasy that shoehorns Queen tracks into a satirical futuristic narrative.

"Queen will always be bigger than any musical"
Like The Beautiful Game, Elton's last musical venture, the result is very much a game of two halves: great music, shame about the book.

The year is 2302, and the earth is controlled by an evil corporation called Globalsoft that dictates the clothes people wear, the movies they see and the music they listen to.

All musical instruments are banned, and no ugly people are allowed in the charts. But an underground resistance - "the Bohemians" - hold out hope that the spirit of rock lives on and may one day rise again.

With a hero called Galileo, a heroine dubbed Scaramouche and a villainess named Killer Queen, it is clear Elton has not strayed too far from his inspiration.

And up to a point songs like I Want To Break Free, Somebody To Love and Radio Ga Ga spring plausibly enough from the story.

Nigel Planer
Nigel Planer has some witty moments

The problem is that Queen will always be bigger than any musical - especially one as ill-conceived as this one.

So Elton's attempts to subordinate their genius to his juvenile scribblings appear not just foolhardy, but downright arrogant.

The show is at its best when it abandons all pretence of narrative and presents flamboyant, concert-style renditions of We are the Champions, the title track and Bohemian Rhapsody.

And Elton's fellow Young Ones alumnus Nigel Planer has some witty moments as an old rocker who helps Galileo (newcomer Tony Vincent) find the "living rock" in which Brian May's guitar is buried.

Once the warbling stops, however, it becomes apparent this is less of a tribute to Mercury than a shameless ploy to cash in on his legacy.

To quote the great man: "Just gotta get out, just gotta get right out of here."

We Will Rock You opens at the Dominion Theatre in London on 14 May.

See also:

08 May 02 | Music
Queen rock on in poll
14 May 02 | Showbiz
Queen musical prepares to open
26 Mar 02 | Showbiz
De Niro to rock with Queen
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Ben Elton pens Queen musical
19 May 02 | Reviews
We Will Rock You: Your views
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