School of Rock
Congress Theatre Eastbourne
I usually enjoy writing the occasional pun or witty remark when opening my reviews, however on this occasion I’m just going to
say this. School of Rock The Musical was the best show I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing.
And why did this even surprise me? Crafted by the hands of master composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, this musical simply rocks beyond expectation. It was certainly worth the seven years of negotiation it took to secure the rights to adapt the film from Paramount pictures.
It has everything. Based on Julian Fellowes’ book, it’s a story full of inspiration, rebellion and dreams, with musical numbers that are as catchy as a fielder in cricket, brilliant choreography and breath-taking colossal sets that made me forget that I wasn’t sat in the heart of the West End. It had that exciting new show feeling, which is apt as it’s the production’s first ever UK and Ireland tour.
Jake Sharp brilliantly leads the cast as Dewey Finn, a character bursting with endless charisma who many may know as being played by Jack Black in the feature movie. The story begins with Dewey scrounging off his best friend and wife, not paying rent or working, refusing to ‘grow up’. Having just been kicked out of his metal band for having the wrong image, he finds himself at rock bottom (no pun intended). As an opportunity to be a supply teacher arises, (by impersonating his friend Ned), Dewey brings out the hidden creativity in a class full of academic children; they in turn develop him into a more responsible and well-rounded adult, who of course still loves to rock.
The core message of the story is a reminder of how powerful music can be, not just as a amazing tool for child development, but as a way for everyone to express creativity and emotions, or as Webber puts it, it’s ‘a testament to the empowering and unifying force of music’. Like most aspirational musicals and films, it reminds us to follow our passions and dreams, even with the many barriers that one must face along the journey.
Rebecca Lock, who plays the very ‘proper’ school principal Rosalie Mullins, commanded the stage with the most amazing operatic voice, which combined with the rest of the cast left me in awe on many occasions. One of those rare moments in life where I just had to shake my head in disbelief.
Most impressive of all were the talented cast of children, who perform all their own instruments and songs. That may sound straightforward, but when you see them in action it was so hard to believe due to the raw talent on stage, that Lloyd-Webber himself (via recorded message) announces before the show a reminder that every note you hear is being performed live. From raucous guitar solos performed over the shoulder to killer keyboard skills, I haven’t seen kids this talented since I saw Tim Minchin’s Matilda, a show very similar for all the right reasons.
I left the theatre feeling exactly the way a perfect musical should leave you feeling, energised, inspired and full of life. This production is amazing for adults and children alike, and I wouldn’t think twice to see it again.
School of Rock The Musical plays at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne until Saturday 16 April as part of a national tour, to find out more visit uktour.schoolofrockthemusical.com.