Shortly after its world premiere on May 14, 2002, those involved with this musical could have been excused for worrying somewhat when the most favourable critics’ quotes came from reviews by Capital Radio, the Financial Times and BBC Newsnight. They’re not worried now, because it is currently celebrating a year’s worth of standing ovations and a box office gross of more than £20 million.
Ben Elton’s story is set some 300 years hence on a planet ruled by the Big Brother/Sister combo of Khashoggi and Killer Queen (Clive Carter and Sharon D Clarke). All musical instruments have been banned, although legend has it that the last of the freedom fighters, a band called Queen, secretly buried many electric guitars.
Determined to find them are Galileo (Tony Vincent, on this occasion Alex Jessop) and his feisty girlfriend Scaramouche (a wonderful performance by Hannah Jane Fox).
They, together with the other good guys and a splendid ensemble, soar and swoop through more than 30 of Queen’s best-known numbers which are choreographed by Arlene Phillips and accompanied by a great band led by Mike Dixon.
Bobby Aitken’s sound design is spot on, as is Willie Williams lighting, while Mark Fisher’s spectacular production design has video screens offering a permanently bewildering display of ever-changing images. And at one point a clapped-out old van is lifted high into the flies as a section of Tottenham Court Road tube station emerges from the bowels of the stage.
All that, coupled with a fine cast and a unique collection of memorable songs, means that in time this show could well achieve cult status.