Funky Company Shines in Age-less Production
The golden era of rock ’n’ roll is relived in Cripple Creek with a lively, post-social media version of “We Will Rock You,” featuring the age-less music of the British band Queen.
The musical, which plays at the remarkable Butte Theater, marks one of the first major local debuts of the Funky Little Theater Company. The Funky folks now are the main producers of shows at the Butte, assuming a role formerly held by the Thin Air Theatre Company.
The “We Will Rock You” story, originally written by Ben Elton and then later adapted slightly by Mickey Burdick (formerly involved with the Thin Air Theater Company and a key producer of melodramas at the Butte) for the Cripple Creek stage, is a real winner for the gaming community.
The musical, told through the timeless music of Queen, tells the story of a group of Bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought and fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same; and yes, listens to boring, really bad music.
It is quite an ambitious theatrical production, and Funky Little Theater clearly shines for this production by really making the performance quite relevant in today’s post-social media world. The musical is two and a half hours-plus, which makes it quite a challenge to maintain audience attention.
But Funky clearly prevailed in achieving this goal and even succeeded in getting participants to sing along with the Queen favorites. During the show I witnessed last week, it was obvious that many crowd participants were going on their fourth or fifth show, and knew the words of the songs probably as well as the performers.
Amazing how the story, with the themes of the struggle for free thought, still resonate with theater audiences today, even with music that was done primarily in the 1970s and 1980s.
I particularly loved the quips against social media addicts (right on), and the unique anecdotes from some of rock ‘n’ roll’s former magic earlier moments, capturing the legacy of the Doors, the Beatles and Elvis Presley and even venturing into more modern acts like Lady Gaga, Madonna (well, I guess she is not young anymore) and Britney Spears. No, don’t worry, this story stayed away from the Ticketmaster/Taylor Swift fight.
The idea that rock ‘n’ roll players and performers don’t really die was reaffirmed.
And contrary to what former Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship singer Grace Slick has frequently proclaimed in some unusual social media posts (Grace, stick to your paintings), many rock ‘n’ rollers are still golden in their elderly years, even if they don’t look that great.
The stage setting was amazing, especially a scene from a secret Bohemian cave and hideout, serving as a mini Hard Rock Café setting, that featured images from Pink Floyd, (one of my personal favorites), AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, The Who, ABBA, Prince and more.
Kudos also go out to musical director Annie Durham, (who actually serves as the Cripple Creek/Victor School District’s CTE director), who did some great musical mood changes on the piano.
This is not an easy performance to pull off and the Funky team definitely shined in this regard.
As for star performances, Jamie Brown really stood out as the “Killer Queen,” ought to destroy the cadre of rock ‘n’ roll bohemians. She makes a great villain and would have made former Cripple Creek legend Mel Moser quite proud.
And the two main characters, True Chin-Parker as “Scaramouche” and Jim Conklin as “Galileo,” make a great combination, demonstrating that an oddball couple can thrive in today’s social media environment by actually being themselves
But virtually all the performances would have made story writer Ben Elton happy and stood up against the clicking time clock. It was clever how the story was adapted to the current media environment.
And not surprisingly, the musical performances stole the show.
The show definitely reaches a celebratory climax with “We Will Rock You” and is capped further by a really insightful version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Earlier in the show, the crowd heartily endorsed Funky’s unique adaptation of Queen’s “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
Whether you are a rock ‘n’ roll fan or not, “We Will Rock You” offers great entertainment in a setting that probably serves as one of the best venues for live theater in the entire Pikes Peak region. Not question about that distinction.
If you spend several hours at the Butte for a show, you can easily see why it is rated as the Best of the Best for a prime entertainment hub.
“We Will Rock You” will be featured at the Butte Theater until August 12. For reservations, call 719-689-6402 or visit www.buttetheatercom.
And if classic melodrama is more your cup of tea, you can also enjoy “The Girls of the Golden West,” appearing at the Butte until August 13.