MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

School of Rock – Bradford Alhambra

Reviewer- Jay Nuttall

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics: Glenn Slater

Book: Julian Fellows

Director: Laurence Connor

It’s hard to believe that Richard Linklater and Jack Black’s surprisingly lovable film School of Rock is eighteen years old. It cried out for an obvious stage musical adaptation, but it took seven years of negotiations to acquire the rights to do so. It has played Broadway and the West End over the last six years and now embarks on a UK and Ireland tour. It gigs at The Alhambra Theatre in Bradford as a perfect half term treat.

Many families will have watched the 2003 film, made special by Jack Black and who was perfectly cast in the lead role of Dewey Finn. This demographic is replicated as children, parents and grandparents fill the theatre expecting something similar and, indeed, familiar from the film. They are not disappointed as the book by Julian Fellowes sticks closely to the beats of the screenplay and Jake Sharp proves a superb double for the fun, mischief and anarchy Black brought to the role when creating it. However, there will be no-one leaving the theatre not immediately talking about the impressive talents of the young cast.

Dewey Finn, a drop out dreamer who can’t hold down a job or place in a band, is tempted into some easy money by stealing his flatmate’s identity and blagging his way into a supply teaching position at the expensive and prestigious Horace Green Prep School. Strictly ruled by headmistress Miss Mullins, (Rebecca Lock) the children perform in perpendicular straight lines. Their academic world is destroyed by the arrival of Finn who quickly replaces the three Rs with just one – rock! The rest of the plot writes itself as the class strive to perform in the Battle of the Bands contest as they secretly rehearse, eventually fighting the authorities of school and parents in order to have their moment in the spotlight and concrete an alternative education they so desperately need in a school focussed on grades and results.

School of Rock is a lot of fun, driven by a fantastic central performance from Jake Sharp. There are some enormous shoes to fill as any actor will always be compared to Jack Black. Sharp does not impersonate Black, but his performance is so close to the original we immediately feel in safe hands. Despite his ramshackle nature, Sharp manages to make him the hero. He is rude, daft, and very funny as he embarks upon his own journey of enlightenment – the children in the audience especially loving his rebellious nature. As Miss Mullins (and love interest) Rebecca Lock display an impressive operatic vocal performance and has a lovely transformation away from her initial austere exterior.

Billy Elliot and Matilda have demonstrated how a trained young cast can steal the show in musical theatre and School of Rock is no exception. From the dozen performers onstage, it is difficult not to be enormously impressed by the four actor/musicians who become the crux of the band. In this performance there was, on bass Katie (Mari Kit Akiwumi), on guitar Zack (William Laborde), on keyboard Lawrence (Oliver Pearce) and on drums Freddy (Emerson Sutton). They become idols for the younger eyes in the room as they exuded cool – although it is probably fair to say any of the enormous pool of young cast trained for these roles would excel just as much. What is so fantastic about displaying such young talent is the agency and empowerment is affords to its young audience.

The show shines when the School of Rock band plays the hits from the film, especially Stick it to the Man. It is a shame that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score occasionally loses some energy in the piece as a whole and it is notable that there isn’t a standout song in the musical version that isn’t lifted from the film. That said, this is a joyous and incredibly fun treat for all the family this half term.

Runs until October 30th 2021

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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