Touring – reviewed at Curve Leicester
School of Rock presents the recipe for a perfect 21st century family musical. A simple story with likeable characters and a heart-warming message, played out to a soundtrack of bombastic, foot-tapping tunes. I’ve previously described it as being as if Matilda and Rock of Ages have been chucked in a blender, and the result is just as electric as you’d imagine. It’s no wonder then, that School of Rock has provided Andrew Lloyd Webber with that elusive, bankable ‘hit’ he’s been seeking for the past couple of decades.
If you’ve seen the 2003 film the musical is pretty familiar fare which sticks closely to the source material, which is a plus, as Julian Fellowes’ book succeeds in its modest structure which lets the laugh out loud humour and touching moments of sentiment shine.
Among the most enjoyable scenes are those taking place in the classroom. The chemistry and interplay between lovable loser turned substitute teacher, Dewey Finn, and the strait-laced kids of Horace Green prep school is sharp, often surprising and genuinely funny. The kids’ backstories are further developed by Fellowes, leading to the incredibly sweet ‘If Only You Would Listen’; a plea for acceptance from parents that either can’t or won’t have time for their children’s growing independence and desire for connection.
Lloyd Webber’s songs (with lyrics by Glenn Slater) fit well alongside the existing songs from the film (‘School of Rock (Teacher’s Pet)’; ‘In the End of Time’). ‘You’re In The Band’ is a rocking sequence, showcasing the kids’ individual talents with gleeful enthusiasm, while the 11 o’clock number, ‘Where Did The Rock Go?’, gets the balance between elegy and pastiche just right, humanising the stuffy Head Teacher, Miss Mullins. But the standout number is the anarchic anthem, ‘Stick It To The Man’, children and adults alike can’t help but want to be up on that stage with the band, ‘kicking ass’! The song is a thunderous wall of sound and the rebellious message has unsurprisingly become the global motif for the show.
The cast work their socks off; the talent displayed by the young actors is undeniably impressive – quadruple threats at the age of 10! – and the thrilling live music elevates the musical further by recreating the buzzing atmosphere of a rock concert. The children also display impeccable comic timing, the young actors playing Billy and Lawrence in particular are absolute scene stealers.
Rebecca Lock is endearing as the high-strung Miss Mullins, her voice soaring whether singing in crystalline soprano or belting out a power ballad. Jake Sharp gives a star-making performance as big kid, Dewey Finn, endowing the role with charisma and wit while avoiding turning the part into a Jack Black impersonation. Sharp’s relentless energy and palpable joy really hold the show together, and his searing vocals are authentically rock’n’roll.
School of Rock is the feel-good musical that we need right now, and it was lovely to see such a varied audience on a Monday evening at Curve. From young families to veteran rockers sporting their favourite band tour t-shirts; Lloyd Webber, Slater and Fellows have crafted a musical for everyone to enjoy. The message conferring the transformative benefits of musical and artistic education is a very worthy one, but that aside, School of Rock is simply a rollicking, gleeful night of fun!
School of Rock plays at Curve, Leicester until 4thJune 2022.
For full tour dates please visit: https://uktour.schoolofrockthemusical.com/tour-dates/
Jake Sharp and the company of School of Rock. Credit: Paul Coltas