New London Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 19th April 2017 by Sebastian Singh
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton
Based on the 2003 film, School of Rock follows Dewey Finn, an out-of-work rock performer, who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school to help pay rent. After identifying the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-graders, in an attempt to win the upcoming Battle of the Bands contest.
A brilliant translation of the film, Julian Fellowes book has carried much of the humour and sometimes crudeness of certain characters, as well as the emotion and passion of this story. The energy and humour of the original story is portrayed through some very catchy songs, created by Andrew Lloyd-Webber (music) and Glenn Slater (lyrics). Particular highlights for me were “You’re in the Band” and “Stick it to the Man” which have energy and a real buzz in the theatre.
Laurence Connor has directed this production well; it does not stop and flows particularly well from scene to scene. This is aided by a great, functional set design by Anna Louizos (who is also the costume designer). The two complement each other and the audience are transported into a school classroom, where we witness the children’s opportunity to discover who they are, away from the pressure of their parents and their wishes.
David Fynn takes the lead role of Dewey Finn and gives a brilliant performance. For all Dewey’s faults, David gives him a charm, charisma and passion that audiences love and connect to. Florence Andrews plays Principal Rosalie Mullins and is fantastic; pretentious yet elegant with it, she hides her rock side until near the end, where it is wonderful to see her let go. Her vocal is stunning, especially in the opera class where she shows incredible range during “Queen of the Night”. The adult ensemble add lots of character as fellow teachers or parents of the students but they are mainly here to flesh out the children’s stories.
At the centre of the musical are the sensational children. With energy and enthusiasm throughout, they sing, dance, act and play their instruments live. The production recently won an Olivier award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Music’ due to the three casts of children playing live every night and it is a spectacle to behold. The band stand up at times and lean into the theatre from the pit to show that they are not playing. It is incredible to watch, especially during the competition where they compete as “The School of Rock”. It is hard to believe that the children are playing, as they are incredibly professional but they rock!
This is a brilliant show that encourages young people to pick up an instrument and be creative. This is particularly relevant and necessary with arts cuts and the place of the arts in current education; and I applaud the whole creative team for promoting this.
This production is booking until January 2018.