School of Rock

Aug 5 2023 | By More

★★★★☆   Dynamic

Edinburgh Academy (Venue 70): Fri 4 – Tue 15 Aug 2023
Review by Torya Hughes

Fringe favourites Captivate Theatre bring the musical School of Rock to the Magnusson Theatre at the Edinburgh Academy, featuring a cast of talented local children.

School of Rock is based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black, and tells the story of Dewey Finn, an out of work musician who lives with his best friend Ned, a substitute teacher, and Ned’s girlfriend Patty. Dewey struggles to pay the rent after being kicked out of his band, and Patty’s patience runs out.

When a call comes through from the headteacher of posh private school Horace Green, looking for a teacher to start immediately Dewey sees an opportunity to earn some money and turns up at the school pretending to be Ned. At first he plans to sleep off his hangover in the corner of a classroom, but when he discovers that his pupils have musical talent, he’s inspired to enter them into the Battle of the Bands contest.

Aidan Cross and some of the young ensemble in Captivate’s School of Rock. Pic: Captivate

Aidan Cross plays Dewey with considerable energy, showing off a strong voice and great comic timing. His friendship with Ned seems unlikely at first – the cardigan wearing teacher claims to be a “satanic sex god” at heart, but spends most of his time being ordered around by his girlfriend.

Ollie Hiemann captures Ned’s awkward nature nicely, but doesn’t allow him to become too much of a pushover. The two friends have a great moment together where they let loose in a game of Guitar Hero, although that is quickly squashed when Patty comes home and catches them.

Lucy Pedersen is a force to be reckoned with as the domineering Patty, and also has a nice contrasting cameo as a teacher at Horace Green.

The school is led by Rosalie Mullins, an uptight and seemingly prim headteacher with high expectations. As Miss Mullins, Dannielle Logan has a beautiful operatic voice, and makes the character sympathetic rather than tyrannical. The adult cast is completed by a strong ensemble of 8 who play parents, teachers and even Dewey’s old band mates.

multi talented children

However, School of Rock would be nothing without a cast of multi talented children, and Captivate certainly delivers on that front. Horace Green becomes an all girls high school, and the 22 young people throw themselves into every number.

They are introduced to the stage with the regimented school anthem Here at Horace Green, but are equally capable of rocking out to Stick it to the Man. Hannah Kelly is a confident drummer as Freddy, while Tara Boyton shows off her skill with some fancy keyboard work as Lawrie. Every band needs a steady bass rhythm, and Sheer Stav delivers that as Katie.

Aidan Cross and the young ensemble of School of Rock. Pic Captivate

Taking on the challenging role of lead guitarist Jack, Elissa Watson works hard to play some complicated melodies. There are also a stunning performance from Elyssa Tait as shy Tomika, who finds her voice through being part of the band.

Of course, not everyone can be a singer, as Violet Beattie hilariously proves. As the wonderfully irritating Summer Hathaway, she murders “Memory” but finds her niche organising everyone else as the band manager.

On the surface, School of Rock is a light comedy, but there are deeper themes woven in between the jokes. The children reveal the challenges of trying to live up to parental expectations in the touching”If Only You Would Listen”, while also dealing with the pressure to excel at school under Miss Mullins’ watchful eye.


Many of the characters undergo a transformation, whether it’s Ned rediscovering his rock roots and Miss Mullins letting her hair down to Stevie Nicks, or Tomika finding the confidence to showcase her true talent. Perhaps the biggest transformation belongs to Dewey, who goes from sleeping on a sofa surrounded by empty crisp packets to inspiring and motivating a whole class of kids. At its heart, it’s a story about finding a purpose in life and having the freedom to live authentically, something we can all relate to.

Sally Lyall’s direction drives the story along, with no let up in the pace. The stage rarely seems crowded, using a clever set made of scaffolding to add levels. Danielle Logan gives her cast simple but effective choreography, while Ronan Corkey conducts the excellent off stage band.

There is universally good diction, and the sound balance only occasionally wavers into being a little too loud, usually when the onstage band kicks in as well.

This is a hugely enjoyable show which will have you singing on your way out of the theatre.

Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Academy, 42 Henderson Row, EH3 5BL (Venue 70)
Fri 4 – Tue 15 August 2023
Evenings: 5pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Captivate Theatre links

Twitter: @Captivate_LTD
Facebook: @captivatetheatre
Instagram @captivatetheatre




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