rock lesson

Jake Sharp as Dewey Finn sets out the class's new curriculum of rock followed by a period of roll

School of Rock – The Musical

Wolverhampton Grand

****

Britain’s Got Talent all too often demonstrates breaches of trades descriptions with acts that are regularly outperformed by the stage floorboards, so to see real talent you could always visit your nearest theatre to see shows like School of Rock.

The adult stars we expect to be seasoned pros, after all it’s their job and has to pay the bills and mortgage, but the kids . . . they are something else. Twelve pupils played by a rotating team of 42 youngsters who can sing, dance and boy, can they play the music of rock with lead guitar, keys, drums and bass.

All at an age when schoolchildren and musical instruments usually sound like concerted cruelty to cats. It’s worth the price of a ticket just to see what these kids can do.

Meanwhile back at the show . . .  Horace Green School is a prestigious American prep school, a sort of educational Petrie dish of privilege where the wealthy can deposit their children along with $50,000 a year to prepare them for entrance to an even more expensive Ivy League university where they will be prepared further for the sort of career that will earn them enough $$$$s to send their children to a $50,000 a year prep school where . . . you get the picture.

And into this cosy world comes Dewey Finn, who is to academia what Boris Johnson is to zip wires. He has just been kicked out of his own rock band, No Vacancy, has lost his job and can’t pay his rent, or afford to eat for that matter. He appears to have only one set of clothes, either doesn’t own or has no instructions of how to use a comb and anything beyond 12 bar blues progressions, the A-Z of rock bands and associated gods, and guitar riffs of the greats is also way beyond him.

school band

Rebecca Lock as school Principal, and secret rock chick, Rosalie Mullins who gives us the showstopper power ballad Where did the rock go

Not a lot going for him . . . apart from the fact he has a job as a substitute teacher at Horace Green, or more accurately, his best friend Ned Schneebly, where he is staying, has a job at the school and Dewey has sort of, well, borrowed it, without Ned knowing, to earn some much-needed cash. The only problem is the only subject he can teach is Rock and the only exam he can set for his class is to qualify for the local rocker contest, The Battle of the Bands.

But first there is the battle of the curriculum, or rather lack of it, as Dewey turns his young charges into rock stars. At Press night there was Hanley Webb as Zack who was turned into a mean lead guitarist, Ivy Balcombe as Katie, who swapped her school orchestra cello for a wall-bursting bass, then the school orchestra’s pianist Lawrence, played by David Gluhovsky, swaps The Magic Flute for his own magic keyboard while Isaac Forward plays Freddy, who dumps his school cymbal boredom for the beat of hi hats and skins as the drummer driving the music.

Throw in Kyla Robinson as Shonelle and Elodi Salmon as Marcy, the backing singers, and Souparnika Nair as the shy Tomika, whose amazing Amazing Grace lands her the job of the band's singer and you have a band – managed by the oh so bossy Summer, played by Florrie May Wilkinson, along with roadies, tech and stylist.

dewey rocker

Class act as Dewey finds the kids believe in him . . . and his beloved rock music

Jake Sharp is a disheveled, disorganised, dis pretty much everything except rock’n’roll Dewey, sorry, Mr Schneebly. He has some lovely comic touches and seems to have a genuine on-stage rapport with the kids, whenever they are all on stage it is just pure, infectious fun spreading through the audience.

Their music numbers, with You’re in the band and Stick it to the man recurring, are lively, or manic in Dewey’s case, taking the audience with them.

Matthew Roland is the timid real Ned Schneebly, a secret wannabe rocker with Dewey BUT only when his wife Patty Di Marco , played by Nadia Violet Johnson is out.

Her mouth is rather like a Gatling gun, spitting out orders, instruction and criticisms in a staccato rhythm as the list of commands slowly turn in her head – harridan with a capital H. She was even a catalyst of the unfolding disaster or delight, depending upon which side of the fence you were on, by demanding rent or eviction of Dewey

Back at the school we have Rebecca Lock, a seasoned West End musical theatre performer, as Rosalie Mullins. She is prim and proper, an uptight Principal trying to live up to the sky-high expectations of the demanding and paying parents, except, she has a sort of rock chick secret, half a pint and she is away with Stevie Nicks.

Her night out with Dewey ends with the power ballad Where did the rock go which she made into a real show stopper; the performance of the night.

There is good support from the staff members trying to maintain the ethos of the school, a real education word there for you, as everything leads up to the Battle of the Bands. This sees Dewey’s old band, No Vacancy, and his new band, School of Rock, in a head to head, with the kids winning over the audience and turning the angry parents into their biggest fans. Did they win the battle? Well, the parents had to buy a ticket to find out so, so should you. 

It is a feel-good musical, with plenty of laughs, and a sort of message that kids need more than the ambitions of their parents and being forced like rhubarb in a posh school – they actually need parents, real parents, who listen to them, understand them and not only care but ask about their children’s dreams, hopes and ambitions.

 In short they just want to be heard. As for winning? They did what Dewey set out to do and as he tells them real rock stars never win anything . . . which strangely is true. Queen, The Kinks, Guns N’Roses, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Journey, Patti Smith, The Ramones, The Grateful Dead, Chuck Berry, The Who and even The Beach Boys, along with a whole host of other top names, have never won a competitive Grammy between them. It is almost a badge of honour not to win!

An entertaining evening is complemented and completed by a slick set from Anna Louizos and lighting from Natasha Katz to pick out dramatic and poignant moments and when the kids are having a rest there is a pretty good band of big kids under musical director Michael Riley, to fill in.

The show is based on the 2003 movie starring Jack Black, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a book by Julian Fellowes proving he can do anarchy as well as he does aristocracy. The school will be rocking to 25-09-21.

Roger Clarke

22-09-21 

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