Co-op Juniors: We Will Rock You

We Will Rock You, The Ipswich Co-op Juniors: Corn Exchange Ipswich until Sunday

We Will Rock You, The Ipswich Co-op Juniors: Corn Exchange Ipswich until Sunday June 24

The audience stood up and cheered, clapped hands, waved arms, and whooped their approval at the Corn Exchange. This was perhaps no more than you'd expect with the Co-op Juniors in confident stage-filling form. They belted out the Queen songs with all the swaggering assurance you'd get from rock stars and it went down a storm.

This is the first Suffolk airing of the Queen and Ben Elton Show that's been a favourite coach party outing to the Dominion Theatre in London since it opened five years ago.

Originally planned to be a musical bio-tribute to the late Freddie Mercury, Ben Elton turned it into a tongue-in-cheek satirical vision of an Orwellian world set three hundred years in the future.

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Power has completely gone from the people. The international controlling force, the GlobalSoft Corporation, headed by the Killer Queen (Laura Lucock) and her henchman, Khashoggi (Christopher Evans), has quelled social rebelliousness by neutralising the souls of the young.

Uniformity is king. Everyone has become numb-brained, through homogenous computer music, movies, and clothes. Rock music, for some reason judged to be the ultimate cultural threat, has long since been wiped out and musical instruments banned.

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However, a handful of Bohemian rebels remains underground, keeping the faith in secret. They await a messianic outsider, a dreamer who'll lead them back to freedom of thought and musical expression. This hero is Galileo (the fine-voiced Oliver Brett when I was there) with his chirpy, unimpressed girlfriend Scaramouche (a clever comic performance by Lucy Allen) We follow the quest through the trials and torments of fearsome laser cells and hospitals, and the burnt-out debris world inhabited by the dissidents. Then it's on towards the ruins of Wembley where a hidden instrument might be found.

In truth - as a musical with a story - this is pretty thin stuff, Ben Elton notwithstanding. What carries it is the strength of the Queen numbers and how the show is presented, choreographed and performed.

This, of course, is where the Coop Juniors win hands down. For sheer exuberance, power and sheer belief you couldn't ask for more. The staging is energetic but meticulous, the costumes - all studs, glitz and garish spikiness - and Nigel Virley's music are just right. Producers Pauline Walker and Jeannie Ingram notch up another success.

Ivan Howlett

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