school cst

School of Rock – The Musical

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


Andrew Lloyd Webbers School of Rock, The musical is based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black, which, from a modest production budget, went on to be a huge financial success, earning $131 million at the box office.

The story follows the rags to riches progress of a wannabe struggling rock star Dewey Finn. Sacked from his band and penniless, he cons his way into a prep school as a music teacher. There he inspires his class of fifth-graders to ditch their Classical noodling’s and release their inner Ozzy Osbourne’s and ultimately compete in a Battle of the Bands competition.

Whilst the show follows the film plot in most cases, there is a level of interference with the basically innocent premise by the Lloyd Webber team.

However the issues the production has are rescued on every level by the fantastic young cast. It’s their energy; life and enthusiasm that are harnessed to effectively blot out Lloyd Webbers rather dated thinking.

With Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes as the writer, another layer of respectable, yet lack lustre, dressing is added, all of which undermines the whole angst of rock and roll and that of being a rock and roll god. There is of course again the caveat that this show is largely performed by the incredible talent of some inspiring kids who thankfully fist pump life into the show at every moment possible.

rock chick

Rebecca Lock as school Principal Rosalie Mullins . . . and secret rock chick, with a penchant for Stevie Nicks, with Jake Sharp's Dewey Finn looking on

Forty two youngsters are listed as being part of the cast of which 12 perform at each show. How inspiring they all are, easily holding the stage with the professional confidence that is equal to the adult players. 

There is a pre-recorded voice over from Lloyd Webber assuring the audience that the youngsters are all playing live and mostly they are. However with a seven piece live band in the pit doing the heavy lifting, it was hard to see where those performances were not augmented, but full credit must be given to all the youngsters when clearly the stage was theirs. They rocked.

Jake Sharp takes on the guise of Dewy Sharp, yet has been left little room other than to imitate much of Jacks Blacks wild open-eyed mania. Still he did a fantastic job in the part especially when co performing with his young cast members. Songs like Stick it to the Man were hugely elevated by the performances of the kids.

Lloyd Webber unfortunately falls into the predictable trap of positioning every pupil with an over bearing, strict and uncaring parent seeking respectable futures for their offspring .They are of course all won over by the unrecognised talent of their children in the end . 

Additional strong performances came with Rebecca Lock as Rosalie Mullins and James Bisp as Ned Schneebly.

There are few moments in script that are uncomfortable to hear especially with a young cast on stage and for some those might be deemed morally inappropriate.

These and fa ew other adult references seem misjudgements by the writer and producers especially with so many young children in the audience, but seem to be expected to be lost in the humour of the moment.  

School of Rock, The Musical is a just about a `saved by the bell’ production and Lloyd Webber has his young cast to thank for that. Without them it would be a different affair.

Yet overall it should also be commended for a production that has helped kick start the professional careers of so many talented young performers.

You won’t come away with any great songs in your head but you will remember the energy of them and the spectacle of it. In the film version Dewey Finn at one stage says "I don't wanna hang out with wannabe corporate sell-outs. I'm gonna form my own band. We're gonna start a revolution’

I guess in this case they have to, but let’s hope these young performers are inspired to do so. Term runs to 05-02-22.

Jeff Grant


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