School of Rock | Review
School of Rock
New London Theatre
Review by Sammi O’Neill
The New London Theatre was bustling with excited chattering children last night eager to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Olivier award-winning phenomenon School of Rock. It is understandable why the musical has been attracting families and schools in droves over the last two years.
School of Rock ticks many boxes, a solid albeit predictable storyline with a heart-warming message, a catchy score with a mix of musical theatre and contemporary music and a cast that includes thirteen amazingly talented youngsters of primary school age who all ooze confidence and musical ability.
The musical opens with wannabe rock star Dewey Finn who harbours dreams of being a rock star and performing in the legendary Battle of the Bands contest. However, he doesn’t have a band and what is more… he’s broke! In desperation, he decides to impersonate his best friend Neb Schneebly, and pose as a supply teacher at Horace Green, a top-grade prestigious prep school. Despite being unwholly unsuited as a teacher he stumbles upon the idea to secretly teach the children how to play rock music and enter the Battle of the Bands with them.
Naturally, there is plentiful soul searching and realising of potential along the way.
The film has been adapted for the stage by Julian Fellowes, it seems that he had a lot of fun writing it – the story doesn’t take itself too seriously with plenty of slapstick humour, and language that would make your grandma blush but delights the children in the audience. Lloyd Webber’s music conjures memories of some of his earlier work which is lovely and although the ballad ‘If Only You Would Listen’ should be the anthem of the show, the song ‘Stick it to the Man’ really sticks in your head.
Heading the cast is Stephen Leask as Dewey the hapless loser who ends up learning from the children as much as they do him (I said it was predictable). The character Dewey needs to be full of energy, an excellent musician and singer. Leask is more than up to the challenge. His relentless exuberance never faltered despite being rarely off the stage, yet he cleverly didn’t hog the limelight when the true stars of the show were performing.
Three rotating teams of children perform in School of Rock, the team I saw last night were exceptional. Led by super-intelligent band manager Summer, played by Stella Haden were Santiago Cerchione (Zach) on guitar, Eliza Cowdrey (Katie) on base, Cole Lam (Lawrence) on keyboards and Jacob Swann (Freddy) on drums.
They were backed-up by singers, dancers and backstage crew provided by Saffron Pennycooke (Shonelle), Stanley Jarvis (James), Ellie Wilcox (Macey), Cody Molko (Mason), Joseph Black (Billy) Tia Figgett (Tomika), Teri Ofon (Sophie), Dylan Miles-Davies (Matthew). Although all are accomplished musicians and singers, a special mention must be given to Tia Figgett whose incredible vocals gave one of those ‘goosebumps’ moments.
From 24 February this year there will be a brand new ‘kids’ cast, and if they have an ounce of the same talent that the current ones do, they will do brilliantly. There are also plans to extend the show with open auditions being held up and down the country for the opportunity to ‘join the band’ in a future cast (details below).
Other notable roles are played by Florence Andrews (Miss Mullins) who has been with the show since it opened in the West End, playing the prim and proper headteacher of Horace Green School, who teaches (and sings Mozart) but wonders where her passion went for rock. Dewey’s best friend and flatmate Ned (Alan Pearson), now firmly under the thumb of his girlfriend Patty (played by Michelle Francis).
The other adults play both teachers and parents all equally exasperated by Dewey’s antics, though important to the plot they are great supporting artists to the phenomenal children.
A shout out must go to the New London Theatre itself. A charming venue tucked away on the edge of the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden. It is airy with good facilities, excellent views of the stage and plenty of legroom, a great venue!
Ultimately it is the kids who are the stars of this refreshing show, it is worth the ticket price to see one of these children alone, but their talent combined ensures a rockin’ night out.
Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton
School of Rock is currently booking until January 2019 at the New London Theatre.
Tickets are available here.
JOIN THE BAND
Open auditions will take place later this year in Bristol on the 10 March and in Leeds on 21 April with dates to be announced for London, Manchester and Plymouth.
Children must be between 8 – 12 years old and play a rock instrument (guitar, bass, piano, and/or drums) or sing, registration and further details can be found by contacting Jessica Ronane Casting at email@example.com or at www.schoolofrockthemusical.co.uk/auditions.
Perform ‘School of Rock’ at your own school
Another opportunity to ‘join the band’ is to stage your very own school production of School of Rock. Andrew Lloyd Webber and the creative team offer a performance licence for academic schools to spread the power of rock as far as possible. Details can be found here.