Doing Freddie Justice?

Sean Thomas (Galileo) and Max Lenoy (Buddy) in Townsville Choral Society's 'We Will Rock You'. Catch We Will Rock You at the Entertainment Centre until 10 February. IMAGE: Sonia Warrell

It’s always hard when you leave your baby with someone else for the first time. We don’t have an actual baby, but we have office dogs which we’re pretty sure are the same. As the Huxley writers were both in the cast of We Will Rock You, we knew we’d have to outsource the review – or else you would all be subjected to ‘everyone else was okay, but how great were Sarah and Nathan in the ensemble!?’ 

Taking the reviewing reins for us is a woman with more knowledge of theatre than just about anyone: North Queensland Opera and Music Theatre’s Sasha Holmes:

Set in a future dystopian world where musical instruments are banned and music is all computer-generated, We Will Rock You follows Galileo and Scaramouche on their journey to escape the control of the Killer Queen, and join the Bohemians to achieve their Rhapsody.

The Gaga Kids in ‘We Will Rock You’. IMAGE: Sonia Warrell

Firstly, what on earth were Sarah and Nathan thinking leaving me in charge of this whilst they were rocking?

Secondly, the short version is that everyone should go and see this show, even if it’s just to see Katy Perry – I swear he did jazz hands at one point (and yes, I did say ‘he’)!

I really thought I knew what to expect from We Will Rock You – I know the incredible capabilities of Townsville’s lighting and sound gurus, the crew, the set designer, the directors, the band and the majority of the cast. However, doubts prior to seeing this crept in due to a new venue (the first musical ever to be performed at the Townsville Entertainment & Convention Centre), all my favourite Queen rock songs not being sung by Freddie, and hadn’t I seen a similar rock musical before with the same cast in similar roles?

Answer: I don’t know why I ever doubted them. The Townsville Choral Society smashed out their 100th production, taking us into the future where we get bombarded with all our favourite Queen hits. We Will Rock You opened to a rock-loving audience with a stage full of talent.

Scaramouche (Judy Higgins-Olsen) and the Bohemians in ‘We Will Rock You’. IMAGE: Sonia Warrell

The staging was perfect: scaffolding, broken down cars and the monstrous LED screens of Jamie Schmidt’s (Lighting Design) projections all made you feel like you were at a concert in some futuristic dystopian world. Lighting and sound were at concert proportions with a few little niggles on the tech side – but nothing out of the ordinary for an opening night. I have to mention Denise Higgins (set designer) in particular because the statue side stage ….WOW. After building sets myself, it’s obvious how much work went into everything and I’m just in awe of this woman’s never-ending creative talent. With a new venue comes numerous challenges – especially for a musical – so a massive shout-out to Brooke Maxey as Production Manager and Daks Plozza as Technical Director. I can only imagine the stress levels involved, but you pulled it off.

As if Denise’s talent wasn’t enough, her husband Paddy – who directed the band as the Musical Director – is just screaming out for his own groupies: his guitar solo would make even Brian May stand up to want more. I love seeing the band on stage and with half of local group Cranky Pants playing, you know they are going to rock your world.

Music Director Paddy Higgins performing in ‘We Will Rock You’. IMAGE: Sonia Warrell

After a while, you start to take for granted the scale of this show and stage. With more than twice the stage width of the Civic Theatre, it takes a big ensemble to make the space look full. Choreographer Kylie Ball excelled with perfectly timed choreography and incredible placement of her massive ensemble. Speaking of, the ensemble made it look so easy and sounded absolutely sublime. I spotted numerous characters that would have had to perform quick changes ­– I don’t envy the thought of the side stage chaos, but it never showed on stage, so I send huge congrats to those cast members.

I always have a stand-out in every show, and in We Will Rock You it’s a person who surprised me by showing a side I hadn’t seen before. I thought I’d seen Judy Higgins-Olsen (Scaramouche) tackle every possible role and I knew that talent was her middle name, however she absolutely owned this role in particular. I loved the rough-nut cockney character with sass and perfect comic timing. When you sang your first solo Judy, I have to say the big stage suits you beautifully.

Sean Thomas (Galileo) officially has more talent in his wee little toe than I could ever dream of – and he plays crazy perfectly. I haven’t heard a song this lad can’t sing. I love Max Lenoy’s (Buddy) roles in any show he is in –  however I loved that he got a solo which reminded me just how soulful his voice can be.

Galileo (Sean Thomas) and Scaramouche (Judy Higgins-Olsen) in ‘We Will Rock You’. IMAGE: Sonia Warrell

So many worthy people to mention: Luke Reynolds (Brit), Morgan Eldridge (Killer Queen), Cameron Veigel (Khashoggi) and Steph Durden (Oz) all played fantastic lead roles throughout this show; but special mention must go to Morgan who can belt it out of the park.

Peta Hinchliff (Costume Design) and her team didn’t disappoint. The number of cast members to clothe made me cringe, thinking of the hours of sewing and planning – but the end result was phenomenal. Suzanne Granshaw (Hair) and Nikki Armstrong (Makeup) also had their work cut out for them, with hair, wigs, and more makeup styles than you could poke a stick at, but they outdid themselves giving everyone the perfect look for this show.

As for the production crew: if you don’t see them and don’t notice anything awry, you know they’re doing their job incredibly well. Congratulations to Chris Nobile for his debut as a musical Stage Manager – he and his backstage ninjas were out of sight, out of mind, and so did their job perfectly.

Brit (Luke Reynolds) in ‘We Will Rock You’. IMAGE: Sonia Warrell

This show was filled with little references that made us giggle, reminded us middle aged (and upwards) people of the amazing music we grew up with, and left us feeling in love with a special era of music. I will not spoil it for anyone, but if you don’t have goosebumps by the final song I will be amazed – so hats off Claire Davies for impeccable vocal direction throughout.

Director Jamie Hunt should be proud and sleep well: you have an amazing show on your hands and your hard work has definitely paid off.

Catch Townsville Choral Society’s We Will Rock You at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre from 31 January – 10 February, with tickets available here. Sasha Holmes was a guest of Townsville Choral Society. Sarah and Nathan were the best members of the ensemble. Obviously. 

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