Review – Bohemian Rhapsody: The Music of Queen

June 12, 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✭ Different magic

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tuesday 11-Saturday 15 June 2013
Review by Martin Gray

If you want to see a Queen stage show there are options. There’s One Night of Queen, in which Stars in Their Eyes winner Gary Mullen presents a pitch perfect Freddie Mercury impersonation. Or We Will Rock You, which demands you endure a Ben Elton script to get to the songs.

And then there’s this, which is nothing more than singers belting out the tunes of Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor as a band plays and dancers dance.

Bohemian Rhapsody: The Music of Queen. Production photo

Bohemian Rhapsody: The Music of Queen. Production photo

‘Nothing’ is a relative term, however. Bohemian Rhapsody is really something – something special. In not resurrecting Mercury, it refuses to buy into the idea that Queen was a one-man band. Eschewing a narrative gives us more songs in a shorter space of time – and no groanworthy contrivances to motivate them. And we get to hear them with fresh orchestrations and sung in a variety of voices.

Take Nathan James, for example. A contestant on ITV’s Superstar talent contest to find Andrew Lloyd Webber a Jesus Christ, he looks like a rock god crossed with the Dulux dog. And his voice is less Mercury than Axl Rose meets Michael Bolton, a massive roar at one end, with a side order of sweetness. But by cracky, can he sell the likes of Barcelona, with its romantic operatic stylings, or that camp classic The Great Pretender. And good on him for sporting a kilt in Edinburgh – a leather one, of course.

Then there’s Giovanni Spano – well-known to Edinburgh audiences from at least three tours of Footloose – whose hairy, muscular frame makes him the perfect guy to don basque, fishnets and tiny, shiny shorts for I Want to Break Free… that rock voice doesn’t hurt either. Flashing a 100-watt grin as he’s pushed around the stage on a gigantic throne, before leaping into the audience to flirt with a thrilled punter, he has the audience on board in seconds.

And Kelly Ann Gower astonishes with her gorgeous vocals, combining power and control on Barcelona, and No One But You (Only the Good Die Young), May’s poignant tribute to Mercury.

Amy Diamond – another Lloyd Webber talent show survivor, in her case Over the Rainbow – gives a heartbreaking Love of My Life, while Rebecca Kelly leads on Don’t Stop Me Now, defining ‘gusto’ for the 21st century.

Finally being mounted by a gleeful Smith…
Bohemian Rhapsody: The Music of Queen. Production photo

Bohemian Rhapsody: The Music of Queen. Production photo

Pouting prince Ben Smith produces the Freddiest vocals of the night, on such numbers as Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Bicycle. The latter benefiting from wonderfully tongue-in-cheek choreography from Emma Rogers: her six superb dancers prancing across the stage, miming ringing bells and pedalling, finally being mounted by a gleeful Smith.

Other highlights include a Radio Ga Ga that lets the audience get involved without wrecking the tune; We Are the Champions (lots of enjoyable arm waving); and of course, the title number, for which the term ‘iconic’ might have been invented. The ensemble numbers, meanwhile, see the cast combine voices as proficiently as they earn their solo props.

The five-piece band, led by Liam Holmes, rocks hard throughout, equal partners with the vocalists and dancers in giving old favourites, new twists. Those memorable guitar solos are safe in the hands of Drew Love and Connor Williamson, who occasionally leave the band’s lair at the rear of the stage to bask in much-deserved audience adulation.

It is hard to find any negatives. Bohemian Rhapsody does exactly what it sets out to do – revive the songs of Queen with verve, style and colour – incredibly well. Some might raise an eyebrow at the surfeit of corsets in David King’s production others would certainly say ‘stop playing with your hair, Nathan’ in an exhasperated voice. But nothing worth knocking a star off for.

I like Queen a lot, but I’m hardly a hardcore fan. At the Playhouse tonight, I was surrounded by plenty of them. They were singing and dancing throughout, and they came out beaming. At the interval, someone wondered: what would Freddie would think of all this? I’ll tell you: He’d love it. And I think you will too.

Running time 2 hrs
Run ends Saturday 15 June
Tickets from: www.atgtickets.com
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA. Tue-Sat 7.30pm, (Sat mat 2.30pm).

Bohemian Rhapsody on Tour:

11-15 June Edinburgh
Playhouse
0844 871 3014 Book online
18-23 June Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234 234 Book online
24-26 June Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 630000 Book online
27-29 June Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
2-6 July Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online

ENDS

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