School of Rock – The Alexandra, Birmingham

Reviewer: James Garrington

Book: Julian Fellowes

Music: Andrew Lloyd-Webber

Lyrics: Glenn Slater

Director: Laurence Connor

School of Rock has been a firm favourite with the public for nearly 20 years. The 2003 movie became the highest-grossing music-themed comedy of all time and held that position for over a decade. When the stage musical appeared in 2015 with an original score by Andrew Lloyd-Webber it ran for three years on Broadway, picking up four Tony nominations before transferring to London for another three years and gathering up an Olivier award. Now it’s on its first UK tour, and the audience at the Alex love it as much as ever.

It’s a tried and tested formula, and as a result somewhat predictable. Dewey Finn wants to be a rock star, but he just doesn’t fit into the band and they throw him out just before they are due to appear at the Battle of the Bands. Short of money and lodging with his teacher friend Ned Schneebly, he picks up a phone call offering Ned a temporary job at a very exclusive school – so he decides to masquerade as a teacher and take the job himself. It goes as badly as you’d expect until he discovers that the young people have a lot of musical talent so he has an idea… why not teach them by getting them to play rock music? This he does, with predictably comic results as they try to avoid being caught.

Front and centre is Jake Sharp reprising his role from the West End as Dewey, looking as dishevelled and unteacherlike as you’d expect. Sharp is a good comic actor with a voice well-suited for the role and brings the right mix of humour and empathy in his dealings with the young people put into his care. Alongside him is Rebecca Lock as Rosalie Mullins, the strict and uptight headteacher with a hidden secret. Lock has a great voice and shows a good versatility when she moves between her musical theatre numbers and The Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute. Completing the leading adult line-up we have Matthew Rowland as Ned Schneebly, the substitute teacher who still dreams of being a rock star, and Amy Oxley on as cover as Ned’s overbearing girlfriend Patty Di Marco at Press Night.

Any production featuring a group of young people is going to find that they steal the show, and lo and behold, here they do exactly that. We have three alternating teams of twelve talented youngsters on the tour. There’s a good deal of acting talent on show here, and they play live on stage and are pretty skilled musicians for their ages too, rocking the roof off the Alex alongside the professional band in the pit. They’re well-rehearsed with slick choreography, and each one throws themselves into their individual roles with gusto. Some of them have solo numbers to perform which showcase their individual voices too, with some very mature vocal delivery.

It’s a good old feel-good production that borrows a lot from other works about inspirational teachers in its concept – but few people seem to care about that. It’s joyous, colourful and exuberant and if you’re looking for a fun night out you can do a lot worse than catching it on its tour.

Runs until 5 February 2022 and on tour

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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