Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

We Will Rock You
Blank Canvas Theatre
Review by Mark Horning

Danny Simpson
Photo by Andy Dudik
The world premiere of Ben Elton's We Will Rock You (celebrating the music of Queen) was held in the historic Dominion Theatre in London's West End in 2002. Although panned by critics, it became an audience favorite that ran for just over 12 years and 4,600 performances, closing on May 31, 2014, making it the longest running musical for that theater as well as the tenth longest running West End musical. The show is currently celebrating its Cleveland premiere at Blank Canvas Theatre.

In the plot, the time is 300 years into the future and iPlanet (formally known as Earth) is run by Globalsoft Corporation. Social contact is frowned upon as everyone resorts to electronic means in order to communicate with each other. It is an existence of uniform conformity as the Ga Ga Kids view the same movies and shows, listen to the same computer generated music, and wear the same pastel-colored clothes. Original thoughts and individuality are forbidden and rock music is virtually unknown. All musical instruments have been destroyed.

Galileo (Danny Simpson) has just graduated from high school but is considered a black sheep among his classmates. He dreams and hears random phrases of ancient rock lyrics which frustrate and baffle him. He soon comes to the attention of Commander Khashoggi (Mikey Silas), who heads the mega-corporation's police force and is arrested. The same teacher who turned in Galileo also sells out Scaramouche (Neely Gevaart), a young goth woman who also refuses to conform to the status quo.

The head of Globalsoft is Killer Queen (Neda Spears) who is at war with the few free thinking "Bohemians." Both parties are searching for the fabled ax (the last remaining electric guitar) that is hidden in the "place of living rock" where a "bright star" will show the way to free thinking once more.

Galileo and Scaramouche regain consciousness and meet for the first time in a state run hospital. They soon realize that they are of like minds and manage to escape. While on the run they meet two Bohemians, Brit (Tony Heffner) and Oz (Kate Michalski). After Brit hears Galileo reciting ancient rock lyrics, he realizes that their new friend is indeed "The Dreamer" whom their cult movement has been searching for to lead them. The two Bohemians take Galileo and Scaramouche to their secret hideout (The Hard Rock Cafe) where they meet Buddy (Aaron Patterson), the current leader of the group. Khashoggi and his thugs attack and Brit breaks free to battle the police, allowing Galileo and Scaramouche to escape but Brit is then killed.

On the plus side, the Blank Canvas production of We Will Rock You does a fine job of recreating 24 of the best known Queen hits. The orchestra (Matt Dolan, keyboard 1; Bradley Wyner, keyboard 2; Jesse Fishman, guitar 1; Zach Davis, guitar 2; Tim Keo, bass, and Justin Hart, drums) is great as they manage a recognizable imitation of the various well known riffs.

Danny Simpson as Galileo is superb, with his wide range Mercury-ish voice (his rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" is alone worth the price of the ticket). Neely Gevaart as Scaramouche is a fine match as well in her eight duet and ensemble numbers. Stealing the show is Neda Spears as Killer Queen; she raises the roof with her powerful singing voice. Another nice surprise s Tony Heffner as Brit and Kate Michalski as Oz who perform some outstanding duets together. Mikey Silas as Khashoggi is only in two numbers, but he makes the most of it with his powerful voice. The ten-person ensemble does a fine job as back-up singers and with some tricky choreography designed by Katie Zarecki. Special mention goes to Perren Hedderson for the outstanding projection design that really adds to the show. Likewise, Luke Scattergood's costume design is outstanding as he creates a world of sci-fi utopia offset by glam rock. The production is directed by Patrick Ciamacco.

While the music portion is outstanding (albeit it could be louder, since this is Queen), the acting portions are too drawn out and tedious, making this over two hour production a long sit. The dialog needs to be much more rapid fire so that the space between songs is shortened. In spite of added fans and air conditioning units the Blank Canvas Theatre space is still nearly insufferable when inhabited by a close to sold out audience (even one of the performers made mention of how hot it was during the show). It is a good idea to purchase some bottled ice water or cold beer at the concession stand before the show and drink them liberally.

While not their best effort to date, We Will Rock You is still a pretty good choice for your theater dollar. While the music volume will not make your ears bleed you will get some semblance of Queen's talent and Freddie Mercury's amazing composing skills. Go into the performance thinking "rock-lite" and you will have a more enjoyable time.

We Will Rock You, through August 18, 2018, at Blank Canvas Theatre, 78th Street Studios located at 1300 W. 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland OH. Tickets may be purchased online at

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