Hull New Theatre – until 18 September 2021
Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams
Joyous, exuberant and excited and that was just the reviewer finally back at Hull New Theatre after what seems like forever. I wasn’t alone in that excitement as the expectation buzzed off the audience as we waited and it’s safe to say we were not disappointed. School of Rock is the perfect antidote to post covid blues – funny, uplifting, thoughtful in places and full of fabulous music. What is more we were being treated to a performance in the first week of the first UK tour of School of Rock.
Based on the movie written by Mike White, School of Rock tells the story of Dewey Finn (Jake Sharp) who is the perpetual boy child, the one with no thought for others, a slob and a freeloader. A failed rock star who believes that fame and fortune is just around the corner. In an unlikely turn of events, he impersonates his friend to become a stand in teacher at Horace Green Prep School, a prestigious private school and that is when the real fun starts. Initially he is dismissive of the children and to be honest his attitude to them made me cringe at times, not at all PC. Discovering they are talented musicians he hatches a plan to enter them in The Battle of the Bands, giving each of the children a role to play.
With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and the book by Julian Fellowes this is a quality West End level production. I was a little apprehensive when I realised the music was by Andrew Lloyd Webber, could he write rock music? But don’t worry the Lord can rock, the music is fabulous. I have not seen the film so can’t comment on any differences. It is a very Americanised production and some of the characters are stereotypical but it does not take itself too seriously and you will leave the theatre feeling great.
As Dewey Finn, Jake Sharp is the lynchpin of the story, constantly on stage. He is a superb slob, with all his physical traits adding to the awfulness of the character but somewhere along the line he wins us over and we end up loving him. He has a powerful voice and his relationship with the children is wonderful. A superb performance.
Rebecca Lock is excellent as the school principal Rosalie Mullins from prim and proper to letting her hair down with the poignant song “Where Did the Rock Go?”, a real anthem to the loss of youth and the importance of music.
However, the real stars of School of Rock are the children, their energy never fades, their musical skills outstanding and it is clear in the finale that they have loved every minute of it. Their delivery of “If Only You Would Listen” was heartbreaking, an ode to parents despairing that they don’t listen to their children. This contrasted with the sheer joy and exuberance of “Stick It to the Man”, this just made me want to dance with them.
A shout out should also go to the “Grown Up Band”, musical director Michael Riley providing the music.
Joyous, exuberant and exciting School of Rock celebrates music and the feel-good feeling and freedom that music gives us so maybe music is the star.
This is the start of the national tour so take the opportunity to rock with the School of Rock, I promise you’ll leave the theatre feeling so good.