Book: Julian Fellowes
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Director: Laurence Connor
“What about [learning] Math?”
“No, not important. Ozzy Osbourne does not do Math.”
Did you ever wish that something would happen to make your primary school days a little more interesting? Rather than the usual bland reading, writing and arithmetic, what if the days had included just a little more rock? That’s what the children of Horace Green Prep School are about to find out, when substitute teacher Mr Schneebly aka Dewey Finn (Jake Sharp) turns up in their classroom. Dewey is, to be totally honest, a loser. Behind on the rent, kicked out of his own band, but still clinging to his dreams of rock Godhood – if only he could win the local Battle of the Bands. Dewey has stolen the identity of his roommate Ned (Matthew Rowland) in order to make some cash. Intending to instigate a full semester of recess, when he hears his class in their classical music lesson a chaotic plan is formed to turn these adorable children into a headbanging metal band, The School of Rock. Sneaking things past parents, housemates and especially headteacher Rosalie Mullins (Rebecca Lock) is going to be tricky, but hey, it’s worth it for something to brag about in their Harvard interviews…
If you’ve seen the 2004 film School of Rock which stars Jack Black, the stage show is exactly the same, even down to a lot of the quotable lines, except that the licensed music has been replaced with original songs to flesh out the story further. For example, the children’s personal struggles are highlighted in the slightly heart breaking If Only You Would Listen, Mullins’ rock chick past gets explored in Where Did the Rock Go?, and the anarchy of the whole situation gets solidified in Stick It to the Man. All of these original numbers are fantastic, fitting the rock ethos of the show while still staying true to the feel of a Lloyd Webber musical. And don’t worry, the favourite original songs from the film are still here too – In The End of Time, School of Rock and of course, Math is a Wonderful Thing.
Praise must be heaped upon Mr Dewey Finn himself. Sharp does an absolutely spot on Jack Black imitation, with elements of Alex Brightman, the originator of the role on Broadway. His energy leaps from the stage and the audience can’t help but cheer him on in his quest to Climb to the Top of Mount Rock. It would, however, be interesting to see him break away from the shadow of Black and put a little more of himself into the role, really pushing the character without relying on the crutch of familiarity. Although hopefully not in the same way as Rowland’s Ned, who sounds like a muppet on helium. It’s possible the actor thought he was doing Avenue Q this week, so chose the most grating voice in his repertoire. No, hopefully more like Lock’s Miss Mullins, balancing eager to please with eager to belong, and showcasing a pair of impressive operatic lungs.
Equal praise must also go to the children of School of Rock who show that the future of musical theatre is very bright with the range of characters they play, and the live instruments. Of particular note this performance is Evie Marner as Summer whose teacher’s pet, take charge attitude ripples through the show as she owns her scenes. The children’s cast will change each performance, but if this one is anything to judge by, then the audience is in for a treat whoever they see.
Whether you remember the rock music genre through the original film or the original gigs, School of Rock is a wonderful night out, and a fantastic show. Pull out your plaid skirt, spike up your hair and join the band, you won’t regret it.
Runs until 30th July 2022.