Based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black, SCHOOL OF ROCK is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s first rock musical since the 1971 smash hit Jesus Christ Superstar. The show premiered on Broadway in 2015 and this week made its UK premiere at the New London Theatre. So does the show live up to the hype from Broadway and will it be the next big London rock musical since Rock of Ages in 2011?
Dewey Finn is a washed up, unemployed guitarist, sponging off of his long time friend Ned who has been letting him live, rent-free with him for most of his adult life. When Ned’s girlfriend insists he throw Dewey out for not paying his way, Dewey realises he needs to do something to make some money and fast! When Dewey answers the phone to a school principal, looking for supply teacher Ned, Dewey sees the high income opportunity as a great way to make him some money fast so he pretends to be Ned and embarks on a few weeks adventure, posing as a school teacher.
A musical about a man who poses as a school teacher and kidnaps a class of private school students shouldn’t work as a musical but thankfully SCHOOL OF ROCK does. David Finn is perfect as the Jack Black esq slob, disheveled and dripping with sweat. He is instantly likeable and fits perfectly into the role. Florence Andrews is equally brilliant as the uptight and serious school principal Rosalie Mullins, who at times gets to let her hair down. Preeya Kalidas and Oliver Jackson play couple Patty and Ned well. The characters aren’t the easiest to warm to but they did well with the parts they had to play with.
As for the kids, Lois Jenkins stole the show and melted my heart as the adorable Katie. She was so small and innocent looking but blasted out songs on the Bass guitar like it was no big issue the instrument was bigger than her. Tom Abisgold as Zack and James Lawson as Lawrence both impressed and also stood out from the crowd.
The character of Tomika, the shy little girl who you know is going to suddenly let rip at the end of the show didn’t blow me away as much as I hoped. I don’t think it was by any fault of the actress Nicole Dube but I didn’t feel she was given the opportunity to wow the audience away like I was hoping for.
The songs in SCHOOL OF ROCK are incredibly catchy, especially in the first half of the show. When I Climb To The Top Of Mount Rock, You’re In The Band and Stick It To The Man are all songs that will stick in your head for days on end and the music really works alongside the story.
SCHOOL OF ROCK is a lot of fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I would happily go back and watch it again and again. It may not run for the next thirty years like some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows but he certainly has a hit on his hands.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Tristram Kenton
SCHOOL OF ROCK is now booking until 9 April 2017. Get tickets