School of Rock – The Musical

Jan 26 2022 | By More

★★★★☆   Belting

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 25 – Sat 29 Jan 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

Heads up pop pickers! School of Rock – The Musical, which grooves onto the Playhouse stage for a week until Saturday, is a big fat bundle of anarchic rocking-out and feel-good wish-fulfilment.

Based pretty tightly on the 2003 movie of the same name, Julian Fellowes’ book dials the Jack Black role down a notch while digging deeper into the back-stories of the kids of Horace Green School, to create a musical which spreads the comedy around a bit more and emphasises the levelling power of rock.

Jake Sharp Pic Paul Coltas

Jake Sharp is spot on in the role originated by Black: Dewey Finn, an egotistical guitar freak who hasn’t really grown up and still harbours notions of Rock God grandeur with his band, No Vacancy.

Dewey’s shabby, shuffling demeanour and a positive lack of self-awareness sees him dropped by the band he created, just as he is on the point of being kicked out of his room for non-payment of rent. And the fact that Patty de Marco (Nadia Violet Johnson), the new girlfriend of his flatmate Ned Shneebly (Matthew Rowland), hates him.

So when posh private school Horace Green calls when Schneebly is out, looking for a supply teacher, Dewey happily pretends to be his best pal and turns up for what he expects to be a baby sitting exercise…

room for character development

Andrew Lloyd Webber is on music duty here, replacing the string of rock hits from the film with his own pastiches of the genre – although the title number created specifically for the film remains, as does Math Is a Wonderful Thing, which Dewey improvises for his class when the principal, Miss Mullins, calls by to examine his teaching methods.

Rebecca Lock and the junior cast. Pic Paul Coltas

Webber’s score is pretty perfect, giving much more room for character development. He also provides No Vacancy with just the right level of lamentably soft-rock for their socks-down-the-trousers posing in I’m Too Hot For You.

There’s a spot of Mozart in there too when Dewey discovers the class, who he previously thought were a bunch of stuck up dweebs, playing music for Miss Mullins. In that role, Rebecca Lock has the musical chops to give the Queen of the Night aria a ripping run for its money while showing that classical music isn’t as tedious as you might have thought.

The upshot, though, is that when Dewey discovers the class can play, he immediately forms them into a band – compete with bouncers, a designer, backing singers and manager beyond the basic guitar, bass, drum and keyboards – and they set their sights not on an Ivy League future, but competing in the local Battle of the Bands.

uniformly top notch

Make no mistake, the kids are what this is really all about. The twelve strong children’s company are uniformly top notch, from Harry Churchill’s glittering guitar work as Zack and Daisy Hanna’s muscular bass as Katie to Florrie May Wilkinson’s precocious band manager, Summer, and Souparnika Nair’s tremulous shy-girl, Tomika.

Jake Sharp and the junior cast. Pic Paul Coltas

It might be hard to empathise with the children of those rich enough to afford $50K a year school fees. The point is not so much their backgrounds, however, but the dismissive attitudes of their parents towards them. And of course watching their development as characters as Dewey teaches them to stick it to the man.

The old trope of parents who don’t know how to rock doesn’t quite work – its not as if Rock’n’roll was invented yesterday. But the redemption of Miss Mullins, who has really only lost her mojo, is well worked.

With a cast of over 24 there are a few microphones glitches, but for the most part this is technically the business. And, although ageing rockers with old ears might like a bit more volume, it’s easily loud enough for younger audience members, without any need for ear protectors.

All told, a great rocking night out which will leave you bouncing out of the theatre – and who cares if you get caught playing air guitar while humming the tunes: you’re just sticking it to the man.

Running time: Two hours and 40 minutes (including one interval).
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Tue 25 – Sat 29 Jan 2022
Evenings: 7.30; Mat Weds, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Glasgow Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 3QA
Mon 7 – Sat 12 March 2022
Evenings: 7.30, Weds, Sat mat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Jake Sharp and the junior cast. Pic Paul Coltas


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