Culture Writer Joi Foote reviews Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Musical School of Rock, praising the show’s ability to connect the audience to its characters
The School of Rock’s first UK and Ireland tour did not fail to entertain and humour its audience. Based on the film that debuted in 2003, the musical follows our main character Dewey Finn, played by Jake Sharp. We begin with a series of unfortunate events with Dewey being kicked out of his band; referred to as a ‘freeloader’ and a ‘loser’ then subsequently fired from his job. After being given the ultimatum to either pay his rent or leave in 30 days, Dewey goes behind the back of his friend and past bandmate Ned Schneebly, to impersonate him as a substitute teacher at prep school Horace Green. An outburst of song, led by Headteacher Rosalie Mullins, strikes some irony as Horace Green sings that ‘Nothing will shake these ivy walls.’ This is exactly what is set to happen as Dewey embarks on his act of deception.
Upon hearing his class and being shocked by the music ‘the spoiled brats with the gold stars make’ Dewey establishes a band, ‘The School of Rock’, to compete in a battle of the bands. However, what was once an opportunity for Dewey to finally accomplish his dreams of winning the contest, turned into a development of not only the students but Dewey himself. This progression is mirrored through his wardrobe development as he loses his bright red trainers and adopts a more formal attire. He begins as a self-obsessed, unmotivated individual who in a turn of events reminds us that the importance is not of winning, but rather the rock itself.
It was heart-warming to watch the students performing on stage. From stage manager Summer Hathaway and lead vocalist Tomika Yde, their personalities shone through and touched each and every audience member. We laughed as Summer referred to Groupies as ‘sluts’ and applauded when Tamika found her voice, with her rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ leaving her classmates stunned and the audience in a round of applause. Having watched the film version, I loved how the theatre adaptation allowed me to connect with the children’s characters more, as their desires and frustrations were projected to the audience.
The development of Ned, otherwise called ‘Neddy Bear’, is apparent through the crowd’s vocalised cheer as he sticks up to his girlfriend, Patty Di Marco. It is clear to see Ned is attempting to retain elements of his past life through living with Dewey, for example when we see them play guitar hero as they reminisce about their past lives and the ‘sex-god’ Ned once was.
We witnessed an undeniably amazing performance from Miss Mullins played by Rebecca Lock. Alongside the main plot, we follow a love story between Mullins and Dewey. Her job has turned her into a self-proclaimed ‘bitch’ and as Dewey grows up, she learns to be free as they bond over their love of Stevie Nicks. Lock’s rendition of ‘Where Did the Rock Go’ was captivating. As an audience member, I watched her character open up before my eyes as she let herself be free in the music. With an extensive West-End résumé, this could not have been a better casting of the role.
The School of Rock was a culmination of rock and roll and heartfelt cheer. A performance that left the audience in an uproar and on their feet. This was certainly an all-around entertainer, full of lightweight comedy as we watched them ‘Stick It to the Man’!
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