What does one say about a show where the script was awful but the performance was incredible? Well, I guess the easy thing to say would be… We Will Rock You’s script was awful, but the performance that Pittsburgh Musical Theater gave was incredible.
Clearly it’s not PMT’s fault that writer Ben Elton, whose other work I absolutely adore, really missed the mark with this jukebox musical based on songs by Queen. And if you’re the type of person who thrives on cringe-worthy puns about music and technology, you might love the script. But between that and the over-stuffing of the show with song after song, sometimes to the detriment of the plot, it was a lot to take in.
And yet, despite how I felt about the writing, I want it to be known that I absolutely loved this show and strongly encourage everyone to go see it. Which might be the greatest praise I can give PMT, considering my previous paragraph.
Right away the audience is delighted with the vocals of David Toole as musical dreamer and rebel Galileo Figaro (yes, I know, I know). I was honestly blown away by Toole’s performance in this, and aside from his remarkable singing, I think he really did the best out of the whole cast at making the terrible puns actually funny. Right behind him, however, was Erin Lindsey Krom, who played goth outcast girl Scaramouche. I thought I was impressed with Toole’s singing, and then Krom came onstage and opened her mouth and surprised me all over again. The casting for the show made up for everything the script lacked, because these two were unbelievably talented. The whole cast was vocally talented, but there’s definitely a reason those two are the leads. I also have to mention Meg Pryor’s vocals as Killer Queen, the Gaga-esque (Lady, not Radio) villain. I give major props to anyone can deliver such a powerful voice while dancing and wearing those heels.
My personal favorite character, however, was Khashoggi, the stylishly evil right hand man to the music-killing Queen. J. Alex Noble had me laughing until I cried. His physical comedy was outstanding, and I found myself smiling every time he walked onstage. His louder than life outfit certainly helped- the shirt was made from some kind of plastic or rubber! I was sweating just looking at it.
In fact, all of the costumes were fantastic, giving each character a life and style that was unique and descriptive on its own. So many different musical eras were represented, between the clothes and the stunning hair and make-up design. Kudos to Anthony Sirk and Christopher Patrick on their work, because the characters’ appearances really sold a lot of the show for me.
I found the choreography to be mostly basic but appropriate for the show. There were a few numbers that had more elaborate dances, but generally there wasn’t much big movement. The stage was small and often packed with singing Bohemian revolutionaries or baton-wielding brainwashed police troupes. Director and choreographer Lisa Elliott had a lot to cover here, but she used some unconventional entrances and exits and had a few different levels of stage to keep the show fresh. Overall, it worked emotionally. The audience was singing and clapping along, and I think everyone felt for the characters, despite the flaws in the plot itself.
The only issue I had with the company on this show was again the sound operation. The last PMT show I reviewed (A Lyrical Christmas Carol) had some glaring sound issues, and although it has been greatly cleaned up, there were still problems. Maybe it was opening night tech blunders, but there was a lot of feedback on the speakers. The last time the music was often too loud to hear the singing, and while that has seriously improved, sometimes a late fade in on a mic caused us to miss a character’s first line or lyric. Most of the actors’ voices were strong enough to come through anyway, and hopefully the levels were fixed after that first evening.
Despite my negative opinions of the script, I was seduced into loving the show the Pittsburgh Musical Theater has produced by the talent, glitz and glam, and of course wonderful live band that brought everything together to humor and delight me. And when you think about it, that’s really what you’re looking for when you go to a show filled with Queen songs anyway, isn’t it?
We Will Rock You runs at Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s new space in the West End through February 11. For tickets and more information, click here.
Photos by Melissa Wallace