They certainly rocked us!

The stars of Duchess's Community High School We Will Rock You!
The stars of Duchess's Community High School We Will Rock You!

REVIEW: We Will Rock You – Duchess’s High School, Alnwick, performed at Alnwick Playhouse, Wednesday, March 30, to Saturday, April 2.

ANYONE who is familiar with the classic songs of mega-band Queen – and, let’s face it, that has to be most of us – will know what a daunting task the teenagers from Alnwick’s Duchess’s High School faced.

Queen’s incredible variety of styles and Freddie Mercury’s unsurpassed vocal range, which he exercised with obvious glee throughout his painfully brief career, make the musical element of We Will Rock You one tough nut to crack.

Add the tongue-twisting, complex script, with its constant references to well-known lyrics, from sharp funnyman Ben Elton and you get one of the most challenging musicals going.

And don’t forget that none of the performers were even born when Freddie so tragically died of Aids in 1991.

The school, Alnwick and, indeed, Northumberland should be mighty proud of the way the youngsters applied themselves, sang their hearts out and acted so superbly.

The entire performance, from the outstanding leading characters to a near-50-strong chorus, was, to coin a phrase, a kind of magic.

Kristian Thomassen and Caitlin Burrow in the key roles (Galileo Figaro and Scaramouche) were assured and led by example. Kristian’s vulnerability and Caitlin’s feistiness added to the sparkling chemistry between the pair.

And Freddie himself would have given a nod of approval to their renditions of some of his finest anthems, particularly I Want To Break Free and Under Pressure, a difficult song very well executed.

They played two rebels in a world dominated by computers and devoid of music 300 years in the future. Their quest is to bring life and tunes back to Planet Mall against the will of megalomaniac Killer Queen (given a suitably evil air by Grace Bennett), chief executive of the all-powerful Globalsoft Corporation.

The supporting cast were equally impressive, especially the comic turns of Barney Healy-Smith (marvellously over-the-top as Killer Queen’s madcap sidekick Khashoggi, stealing just about every scene he was in), Hannah Firth (a vibrant and enthusiastic Meatloaf), Luke Bray (a cool Britney Spears, yes Britney Spears), David Paterson (an excellent Pop) and Matthew Winter (a convincing Sir Paul McCartney, aka Big Macca).

Some powerful and genuinely moving ballads, like Who Wants To Live Forever and the heart-wrenching No-one But You, were scattered among the rock classics Radio Ga Ga, Fat-Bottmomed Girls, We Are The Champions and others.

And if that wasn’t enough, the finale brought an excellent version of the fiendishly-tricky Bohemian Rhapsody, complete with Muppet-like playing of air guitars during Brian May’s solo.

The action was played out against a big screen, which flashed up images, yet the stage was bare. Oddly, some impressive-looking props and scenery were scattered in front of the stage where they could not be seen from where I was sitting.

A backing soundtrack accompanied the singers, which gave them an added difficulty, where an orchestra would be more forgiving. But they coped admirably.

I too, like the show’s director Andrew Scott, was at Queen’s 1986 Wembley Stadium concert. I have also seen We Will Rock You in the West End, with its amazing staging, lights and costumes.

Given the miniscule budget in comparison, the talented students of the Duchess’s School more than did justice to both.

PAUL LARKIN

Read Michael Pearson’s review in Thursday’s Northumberland Gazette (April 7, 2011). Michael starred as Beast in the Alnwick Stage Musical Society’s recent production of Beauty and The Beast.

Complete cast: Kristian Thomassen, Caitlin Burrow, Grace Bennett, Barney Healy-Smith, Hannah Firth, Luke Bray, David Paterson, Matthew Winter, Caitlin Bartlett, Emma Callighan, Jade Curran, Annie Davison, Sam Smith, Amelia Callighan, Ricky Angus, Megan Archer, Laura-Jane Atkin, Emma Ayling, Alex Barlow, Livy Belk, Laura Brewis, Will Brown, Charis Buckingham, Nadine Cavener, Kitty Chrisp, Izzee Cooper, Aimee Don, Abbie Donaldson, Leonie Douglas, Ella Dukes, Lewis Gattens, Andrew Holden, Emily Hope, Lily Horgan, Stuart Hyde, Katherine Jenkins, Andrew Kane, Jessica Lawton, Honor Mason, Rachel Orange, Joe Oswell, Charlotte Patrick, Emily Pearse, Gina Pearson, Kieran Renner, Chris Richardson, Jordan Shiel, Jay Surtees, Anna Tucker, Stacey Turnbull, Hayden Watts, Jessica Williams, Rowan Wood, Beth Wyld.