Going to an amateur production of We Will Rock You when you’re a die-hard Queen fan who thinks ‘no one can sing those songs like Freddie’ sounds like a recipe for certain disappointment, especially when the performers are all under 19 and have put the show together in just six rehearsal days. Yet I came away from the Savoyards’ Summer Workshop Production amazed, delighted and totally in awe of what this band of talented youngsters have achieved. And I enjoyed every moment of the show!
With a somewhat scaled down set compared to the West End production (for reasons of time, cost and stage limitations) more emphasis was thrown on to the acting, singing and dancing, and from the start, an energetic full-cast performance of a reworded Radio Gaga, the audience were thrown right into the futuristic world portrayed. This provided the perfect contrast for the entrance of Galileo Figaro (Ebb Phillips) who delivered a heart-stopping rendition of I Want To Break Free.
He, like all the main roles, was perfectly cast and displayed a confidence and talent way beyond his years. Sophia Houghton as Scaramouche had not only a strong voice capable of carrying off some very difficult songs, but brilliant comic timing and delivery too. Katy Haggerty was suitably arrogant as Killer Queen, and Freddie Holme as a silver-suited, swaggering Khashoggi almost stole every scene he was in: I look forward to seeing him develop into an accomplished character actor.
I was equally impressed with the vocal talents of Bohemians Brit (Kaitlyn Donovan) and Oz (Enid Rees), whose confident, professional delivery of I Want It All and Headlong contrasted wonderfully with the heartfelt No One But You. Miles Harvey gave a strong supporting performance as Buddy.
However good the main cast were though, the show was very much a team effort and the high standard of singing and dancing from the full cast owed a lot to the talented teaching of Andrew Woodford and Ashleigh Mackness, but also to the commitment and talent of the young performers who learned demanding routines and honed their skills in a far shorter time than most professional shows take to rehearse.
A word must be said about the adult creative team, who have clearly encouraged each individual young person to take their moment on the stage. Many workshop/school productions showcase the more experienced or talented actors and give the younger ones very little to do; Katy Allen, the director, managed to make sure every youngster had a line to sing or say, an individual contribution to the show, and for this reason as well as many many more, I am sure they will all remember We Will Rock You with affection.
Personally, I will remember it as the show where the quality of singing, dancing and acting blew me away; where a portrait of Freddie Mercury seemed to be looking down with approval on the young performers, and where the final question of the show, ‘Do you want Bohemian Rhapsody?’ was greeted with huge cheers from the audience that were repeated at the end of the amazing and very enjoyable performance of that most demanding of songs.
Everyone involved with the show can be incredibly proud of what has been achieved – to quote another Queen song – In Only Seven Days.