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'We Will Rock You' promises laughs

"We Will Rock You" at the 5th Avenue Theatre
"We Will Rock You" at the 5th Avenue Theatre
Paul Kolnik

So I don't know if you knew this, but “We Will Rock You” is actually a comedy, according to Ruby Lewis, who stars as the tough and saucy Scaramouche.

“One of the first things I hear from people leaving the show is 'I did not expect to laugh that much,'" she says. "It's not billed as a hilarious show, but it is.” I guess that seems obvious, once you realize that the book was written by British comedian and writer Ben Elton, who wrote the "Mr. Bean" series. Elton also directed.

Much like Freddie's mercurial showmanship, “We Will Rock You” isn't just one thing – there's humor, political satire, outrageous personalities, and, of course, a rockin' soundtrack that makes you happy. The story is a bizarre journey into the future where a monotone society is run by an evil corporation ruled by the Killer Queen. Galileo, a disenfranchised youth, teams up with Scaramouche and a scrappy band of underground Bohemians (taps nose) to fight the power, bring back individualism, and, presumably, do the fandango. According to Lewis, it is chock-full of pop culture references, dry humor, and a lot of kitschy fun. Queen band members prefer to call it a "rock theatrical" rather than a musical.

"Having hung out with Brian May," says Lewis, "he is thoughtful, he is an artist. [Queen] is all about putting positive energy out and getting positive energy back. They are the most multi-faceted cool dudes. It was inspiring to meet with them. I was like, 'Wow this is the real deal.'"

The band wanted to shy away from the show being biographical, a la "Jersey Boys." "They wanted it to be totally out there. They think that's what Freddie would have wanted," says Lewis. The band members are involved with casting, sit in on rehearsals, sometimes join the cast on stage, and love collaborating so that the script is an evolving creature.

For example, when the North American tour was announced, Elton wanted to revamp the show for US audiences, especially when it came to the humor. Elton and the band asked for the cast's input and let them bounce ideas around for changes, which is exceedingly rare for big touring shows.

"It was really different than the rehearsal process I'm used to," says Lewis with a laugh. "Most of all, they want to maintain the integrity and make sure that Freddie would like it. They want to be eyes for Freddie. They also wanted to keep it relevant, so if there are any pop culture references that come up during the run, [the cast] can get together and change the show. Though sometimes [Brian May] would argue back and say, 'I'm sorry, darling, but that's how it is.'"

Lewis has solid regional and national tour credits, playing roles like Elle Woods, Sally Brown, Dainty June -- you get the idea. As a cute blonde, it can be hard to break out of typecasting, but Lewis is over the moon to get to inhabit the edgy Scaramouche. "You start out by being whatever you look like. This role has completely changed everything. She's goth, she's rock, it's a wonderful transformation. She's definitely my favorite to date. Really, she's such an ass with Galileo and constantly putting him in his place and it feels so good doing it. It's so nice not to be the brunt of the joke every time."

And like Lewis has been reveling in the transformation from ingenue to wise-crackin' tough chick, so she hopes Seattle audiences will be transformed, even if just temporarily. "This is a celebration of Queen and individuality and we want people to let loose and be transcended into an alternate reality for a little while, and if people let themselves do that, then they really love the show."

After the interview, I told her to enjoy the rest of her stay in San Francisco (the stop before Seattle). She replied, "I'm actually going to see Queen in concert tonight. Brian May got me tickets and I'm actually going to go back stage and hang out with them a little bit. He's a sweet, sweet, sweet man. I'm looking forward to being on the other side."

So that pretty much had my evening beat.

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"We Will Rock You"
July 8-13, 2014
The 5th Avenue Theatre (1308 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101)
Tickets (starting at $29.25) www.5thavenue.org