We Will Rock You, Dominion Theatre, London

Caught between rock and a hard-sell place
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The Independent Culture

Imagine the pitch: a musical based upon the songs of Queen, put on with the blessing of original band members, the guitarist Brian May and bass player Roger Taylor, and the patronage of Robert De Niro's production company, TriBeCa.

So far so good, but then comes the plot. The year is 2302 and earth has become Planet Mall (geddit?), a place where kids wear the same clothing, where rock music is banned, and musical instruments are a relic of a bygone age. This is a land where globalisation is complete and an organisation called Globalsoft, led by the Killer Queen, reigns supreme. The enemies of the state are the Bohemians, a group of outcasts who live underground – in this case, underground means Tottenham Court Road Tube station – and are in constant search of "the lost vibe", music that existed centuries ago that now only resides in memories passed down through the ages.

Then we have the inevitable love story between our two young rebels, Galileo and Scaramouche. Sound bad? You don't know the half of it.

Surely they could have come up with something better than this. Ben Elton, the brains behind the book, claims to be a rock fan but he has done Queen a disservice with such a trite and tacky storyline.

The set, at least, is impressive. Sophisticated hydraulics and huge video screens bearing computer-animated scenes conjure up a colourful, if rather unimaginative, vision of the future. The choreography is similarly slick with dancers in cyber-punk outfits carrying out their duties for the mistress Killer Queen.

"Another One Bites The Dust" is played out in front of a giant computer game. With each chorus, another alien ship is blown apart.

The message in all this, however, is rather dubious. This is a show that celebrates individuality and berates corporate ownership yet flogs T-shirts, scarves and hats bearing the words "We Will Rock You" out in the foyer.

In some of the songs the lyrics have been changed to incorporate references to cyberspace – rather cringingly, "Radio Gaga" becomes "Internet Gaga". Yet the musical comes with its own website where you can book tickets and watch Elton give his own special introduction to the show. There are more inconsistencies, such as the fact that the Killer Queen, a ruler who rails against the destructive powers of rock 'n' roll, arrives as a soul diva and belts out songs with the lung capacity of Aretha Franklin.

Happily though, the songs stay largely true to the originals. "Under Pressure", "Killer Queen", "Somebody To Love" and "I Want To Break Free" all remind you how fabulous Queen were and will have even the most curmudgeonly punter tapping their feet.

But it's hard to see the point of making a musical out of them when you can simply go out and buy a record.

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