School of Rock musical is just a class act

ANDREW Lloyd Webber isn’t a name that instantly springs to mind when you think of rock music.

Nor, indeed, is Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. But, incredibly, these are two of the creative forces behind the musical School of Rock, currently performing at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow.

I’ve always been more inclined to dance to disco, because I don’t like rock. As a result, I’ve never seen the film on which this show is based, which stars Jack Black.

I was reassured that the play follows along the same lines as the hit movie, which follows Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who is ejected from the band which he formed, just as it qualifies to take part in a Battle of the Bands event.

Spending weeks on the sofa of his long-suffered schoolmate Ned Schneebly, Ned’s even longer-suffering girlfriend Patty Di Marco, Dewey takes a phone call intended for his friend, and thrilled at the prospect of a high salary, decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at the prestigious Horace Green prep school.

Jake Sharp plays Dewey Finn, having previously performed the role in the West End, and he’s fantastic. His voice is powerful, and he perfectly captures the physicality of the role, particularly with some of the silent physical comedy which he brings to the part, exposing his stomach and generally playing the part of a slob to perfection.

Dewey teaches the children about rock music (Photo: Paul Coltas)

When Dewey arrives, he witnesses a class of straight-A students playing instruments like piano, cellos and guitars into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band.

What’s particularly impressive – and confirmed by Andrew Lloyd Webber in a spoken message played before the curtain rose – is that when the youngsters are performing with their instruments, they are playing live – there’s no miming to a pre-recorded track. This is a group of truly talented youngsters, who show that despite having a privileged lifestyle, their parents are failing to listen to them and their concerns, so find a release from every day pressures as they form Dewey’s new band – the School of Rock.

Rebecca Lock plays the part of Rosalie Mullins, who initially appears to be Dewey’s nemesis, but ultimately becomes his love interest as the uptight headmistress rediscovers the wild child within, thanks to Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.

At the interval, in the bar area I heard one theatre go-er ranting on the phone to a friend that the production feature ‘a guy trying to be Jack Black, and a bunch of kids singing and playing instruments.’ She meant this as an insult and wanted the show to finish, and her statements were correct, but her intentions were not.

Jake Sharp is an engaging lead, and Rebecca Lock’s vocal dexterity, as she goes from classical singing and hitting some incredibly high notes, to a bit of rock, is outstanding.

Rebecca Lock as Rosalie Mullins (Photo: Paul Coltas)

Matthew Rowland as Ned and Nadia Violet Johnson as Patty are great supporting actors, and the rest of the ensemble really sell it to you, as they play angry parents, outraged rockers and frustrated teachers.

But the real stars are the young cast, especially as they ramp up the energy with Stick It To The Man (a great attitude, for those feeling hacked off). There’s original songs aplenty – don’t expect to hear full rock songs, but you’ll get some nice nods, homages and riffs.

School of Rock- The Musical debuted at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre in New York in 2015, and ran for more than three years, picking up four Tony nominations along the way. It transferred to London in late 2016 and ran for over three year at the New London Theatre, winning an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music. And it’s obvious why. It’s fun, it’s energetic, it’s entertaining, it’s great, and it’s only here till Saturday. Get your tickets now.

School of Rock, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Monday 7 – Saturday 12 March.

Book tickets HERE.