School of Rock - The Musical - UK Tour Review (Theatre Royal Plymouth)
(Please note, the photographs in this review may not feature some of the cast members mentioned)
#Pressreview - gifted
After such a long period of no theatre or live music to capture the attention and imagination of young people, it is really no surprise to see the Theatre Royal Plymouth stuffed full to the rafters with happy audience members for the opening night of The School of Rock. Performing at venues up and down the country in its first, and majorly delayed (thanks covid) UK Tour, The School of Rock is a guaranteed crowd pleaser regardless of the age with something for everybody, from the relatable comedy of the adults in the show to the sheer energy and talent of the young musical instrument playing rock band.
Based on the hit film School of Rock, starring Jack Black as rock music loving Dewey Finn, this musical adaptation tells the story of down on his luck Dewey and his valiant, but not so honest, attempts to both raise some money for rent and to win Battle of the Bands. Pushed to pay rent by his best friend Ned and his overbearing girlfriend Patty, Dewey impersonates Ned and takes his position teaching at the elite prep school Horace Green, where he discovers that his class of overachieving youngsters have a natural talent for music and sets out to turn them into a rock band.
Jake Sharp takes on the role of Dewey Finn, and in a role made famous by Jack Black, you may say that those are big shoes to fill, but Sharp takes it and makes it his own. There is a sense of unbridled excitement in his portrayal, and he is like a kid in a candy store when he discovers the musical talents of the children. The character tends to act before he thinks, which causes issues, but there is a heart of gold there and as a teacher, he becomes something truly special to the children. Sharp’s energy and joy bounces around the stage and off of the people around him, and it’s wonderful to observe. As strict Horace Green headmistress Rosalie Mullins, Rebecca Lock is given many an opportunity to shine, showcasing a flair for comedy as the character struggles to relate to the children and her fellow teaching staff, and much to Dewey’s delight, hides a rock music lover under her stony exterior.
Matthew Rowland earns many a laugh as rock musician turned nerd Ned Schneebly, constantly trying to stay on the good side of both Dewey and Patty, brilliantly played by Nadia Violet Johnson and the adult cast seamlessly switch from teachers and parents and everything in between.
Away from the comedy and general fun of the evening, one of School of Rock’s main selling points is the thrill of seeing such talented young performers taking to the stage, not only proving themselves to be triple threats in the art of singing, dancing and acting but also playing their own rock instruments live in every performance. Harry Churchill commanded the stage as guitarist Zack who wanted nothing more than to play his instrument and win his father’s (played by Ryan Bearpark) approval and pride. Ava Masters showed both talent and sass as bass player Katie with Eva McGrath taking on the role of Freddy (Frederica) and impressing greatly on the drums. Layla Pages’ confident and determined Summer deserves praise, having the audience hanging on her every word as she takes on the role of manager in the band and puts both her classmates and the adults around her firmly in their places.
Souparnika Nair (as seen on Britain’s Got Talent) earned rapturous applause as shy Tomika, struggling to fit in with her new classmates until Mr Schneebly (or should we say Dewey Finn) helps her to find her voice and Oliver Forde displays a natural comedic talent as keyboard playing Lawrence, fretting over not being cool enough to be in a rock band. Kaylenn Aires Fonesca’s Billy, along with his flair for fashion, was also popular with the audience. Liza Deikalo and Kyla Robinson showcased their voices as Marcy and Shonelle respectively with Nesim Adnan, Aadi Patel and Ziana Olarewaju also proviing themselves to have star quality as Mason, James, and Sophie. With kids as talented as these, the future of musical theatre is in safe hands.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening is had by all at this fun filled comedy and music extravaganza, but if I had to nit-pick, I would say that perhaps the first act is a tad too long in its running time. Most people, I would assume, in the audience know of the film and its story, therefore know what is coming and the closing scenes of the first act aren’t really a surprise, leaving the build up to them feeling a little bit dragged out in places. Also, when the bands are performing in concert scenes for the Battle of the Bands, the lighting is a little blinding at times when directed at the audience, leaving a few of the crowd to look away or shield their eyes.
Nevertheless, School of Rock the musical is a hit. It takes the loved film and transforms it just enough to bulk the story out and allow for big moments without stripping away those softer more sentimental moments. The music is fun and catchy, leaving you smiling as you leave the theatre with a very hummable tune stuck in your head. The cast, both adult and children, is exceptional in their roles and it really isn’t hard to see why this musical has proven to be such a success.
School of Rock the musical runs at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 7 May with the tour continuing on. See all tour dates here https://uktour.schoolofrockthemusical.com/tour-dates/