With the glorious noise of yesterday's 100th and final show still ringing in my ears and my voice still a little hoarse from singing along (only at the end, mind!) and cheering this summer's amazing We Will Rock You cast to the impressively distant Coliseum rafters, I find myself wanting to add a few final thoughts to the first impressions I shared with you a few shows into the run, just 12 all-too-short weeks ago.
I know how lucky I am to have been able to see the show as much as I have - my summer of rock (and Lee's The Best Of Me tour in October) are in lieu of a holiday this year - and I've relished every moment I've spent inside the stunning London Coliseum, watching and listening to a cast and band who are brim-full of talent and wield it with such skill, energy and passion.
Seeing a show evolve over time is one of my great pleasures and this production has been no exception. Tweaks throughout the run - to dialogue and blocking, to action and reaction - have served to align the cogs and oil the wheels of the already-mighty WWRY machine. His on stage role as 'Pop' enabled Ben Elton to stay much closer to the action than most directors would during a run - indeed, when he wasn't on stage, he spent much of his time in one of the Stage boxes, observing (and no doubt later giving notes!). The latitude he gave himself in respect of his own dialogue continued, however, and whilst I think this freedom mostly worked to good effect, he occasionally took us too far out of the moment for my personal preference.
The music, of course, had no need for tweaks and the band was quite simply superb. Stuart Morley, who has a long history with Queen and We Will Rock You, is Musical Director, with assistant MD Arlene McNaught on keys 2, Neil Kendall and Neil Radcliffe on guitar, Neil Murray on bass and Dave Cottrell on drums. This group of super-talented musicians are as integral to the success of the show as any of the cast, and it is fitting therefore that the screens behind which they play are lifted at key moments so the audience can fully appreciate their contribution.
Another joy of repeat visits, is the opportunity to see alternates and covers take their time in the spotlight - Jenny O'Leary played Killer Queen on the recent UK tour and was a brilliant regular alternate for Brenda Edwards, Danny Nattrass as first cover Galileo, stepped up to alternate when Ian Mcintosh started rehearsing for the upcoming Jesus Christ Superstar tour alongside performing in WWRY - I loved his subtly different take on the role, one to watch I think! I also saw Leanne Garretty step into Elena Skye's shoes as Scaramouche and Rebecca Wickes cover Christine Allado as Meat - both excellent.
I missed Shak Mancel James as Brit, Esme Bacalla-Hayes as Meat and Sam Robinson as Khashoggi, but have no doubt they also did the show and themselves proud. Simply put, I have the hugest respect for the immensely talented and incredibly hard-working ensemble, and am in total awe of the mental dexterity it must take to switch from one role to another, let alone split-tracks in the same show - so all hail the covers and swings. The people may change but the show remains the same - slick, funny and brilliantly entertaining... it's a kinda magic :)
Final word, however, must go to the leads ... I spoke to many people, often hard-core WWRY fans, in various audiences during the run and heard time and again that this was the best cast they'd ever seen. The vocal talent on that stage was out of this world and there was no shortage of acting skills either - I hadn't previously seen Ian Mcintosh (Galileo) or Elena Skye (Scaramouche) but will definitely look out for future projects. In fact, I'm already booked for the above-mentioned Jesus Christ Superstar tour, in which Ian will play Jesus, and for Close Up! The Twiggy Musical (written and directed by Ben Elton!), in which Elena takes on the title role, while Danny Nattrass and four other WWRY ensemble members are also cast.
Lee was repeatedly mentioned (even without me saying I was a fan!), with many people surpised by, but very much enjoying, both his rock voice and his entirely too convincing villainy, not to mention his rather gorgeous new look! I look forward to news of new projects... we definitely need more Meady baddies in our future! But in the meantime, of course, his The Best Of Me tour kicks off in October - eight dates mostly in the south of England (he hopes to schedule a northern loop early next year) - and he will also be taking his show aboard a few more P&O cruises before opening in panto in December - this year it's Cinderella at Hull New Theatre. By the end of the year, hopefully more people will recognise him without his curls and I won't hear people coming out of the panto, as I did several times at the Coliseum, saying "great show, but it's a shame Lee Mead wasn't on"!
At the very end, there were speeches which you can see here, with Brian May and Ben Elton both promising a future for the show, but shortly before that came the real climax of this epic run as Sir Brian joined the cast on stage, guitar (or should I say 'mighty axe') in hand, for their final Bo Rhap play-out. Absolute magic.
I can do no better than let you enjoy it for yourselves... though if you're watching on anything other than a mobile phone, I recommend you click to Watch on YouTube to view it there in hi-res!