‘School Of Rock The Musical’ (Edinburgh Playhouse) | Review By Lewis C. Baird

The iconic Jack Black movie ‘School of Rock’ was adapted into a stage musical back in 2015 and now in 2022 it’s finally made its way up to Scotland after rocking out in London’s West End. The story follows failed rocker Dewey Finn as he impersonates as his best friend, Ned Schneebly, taking a temp teacher job to bring in some money to pay the rent. Once Dewey figures out the private school students he’s teaching actually are little rockers, he signs them up to compete in Battle of the bands. But will they be able to enter the competition without the school’s headmistress or the student’s parents finding out?  

Jake Sharp is utterly superb as Dewey Finn. The sheer energy that radiates from Jake throughout his performance firmly engages the audience, but adding to that with sharp wit and insane vocals, he unquestionably shows that he is one of the best leading men in the industry. The dynamic between Dewey and the kids has also been transferred beautifully from screen to stage. The banter on stage between Jake and the kids is hysterical, its truly great to watch. Overall, Jake’s portrayal of Dewey is one that matches or perhaps even surpasses Jack Black’s original portrayal. He is the driving force of this production and keeps the audience firmly in the grasp of his hand with his superb comedy, fantastic singing and stupendous energy. 

Rebecca Lock sheds some light into the dour-faced principal Rosalie Mullins. Rebecca’s soprano vocals are simply sublime, especially in the finale. We also see Rosalie’s journey portrayed with great comic and dramatical nuances. A highlight of Rebecca’s performance is her rendition of ‘Where Did the rock go?’ where the veil is lifted on Rosalie’s past. This is a fun performance that is great to watch. 

Matthew Rowland is hilarious as the nervous wreck, Ned Schneebly. The nervousness and almost hysteria that Matthew brings to the character adds to Ned’s chemistry between Dewey and Patty. Matthew’s portrayal of Ned brilliantly allows Nadia Violent Johnson’s portrayal of the pretty villainous Patty Di Marco take centre stage. Nadia’s approach to this character makes her the largest antagonist in this musical. The audience share Dewey’s frustration at how stern and bossy Patty is. Matthew and Nadia’s portrayal of the couple is very effective and at points very funny. 

The adult ensemble of this production truly immerses themselves in both the teaching and rock world of ‘School of Rock’ bringing stern and self-obsessed parents/teachers, plus rocking bands. The ensemble is as follows; Ryan Bearpark (Mr Mooneyham/Snake), James Bisp (Mr Hamilton/Bob), Chris Breistein (Theo), Samuel Haughton (Mr Williams/Stanley), Richard Morse (Gabe/Sandford/Jeff), Annell O’Dartey (Mrs Hathaway), Joanna O’Hare (Mrs Turner/Gordon), Helena Pipe (Ms Sheinkopf) and Craig Watson (Mr Spencer/Doug). 

Now onto the real stars of the show, the kids! This is the best child cast in the UK, providing not only superb acting for each of their individual roles, but also great singing, dancing AND instrument playing. That’s right, the kids play their instruments live. The energy, and talent on the stage is staggering and an absolute joy to watch. The children’s cast featured on press night were as follows; Thomas Harvey (Freddy), Daisy Hanna (Katie), Angus McDougall (Lawrence), Harry Churchill (Zack), Hadlee Snow (James). Jemima Newman (Sophie), Wilf Cooper (Billy), Florrie May Wilkinson (Summer), Souparnika Nair (Tomika), Caelan Wallington (Mason), Elodie Salmon (Marcy) and Kyla Robinson (Shonelle). What an unbelievably talented bunch of kids. 

Julian Fellowes pens the book for this musical, adapting the movie to stage brilliantly, notably taking perhaps a more highbrow scope than the original screenplay, however still retaining the same energy of the movie. The only complaint would be that perhaps some scenes could have been trimmed down, as 22:05 is a bit late for the curtain to come down on a family show. Laurence Connor’s direction of the musical truly immerses the audience in the world of Dewey and the kids, especially during the concert in the finale. Connor’s direction is very effective and quick-paced, nearly balancing out the lengthy book’s pace. Connor has also clearly allowed some minor improvisation from the cast, and this works very effectively when it comes to the production being very fresh and modernized for 2022. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music mostly fits the same sound as the rock featured in the motion picture, at some points however, it is clear that it is a British musical. Glenn Slater’s lyrics for the musical numbers perfectly fit the characters and the tone of each scene. Joann M Slater choreographs this production with contemporary and quick-paced moves which lift the musical numbers. 

Overall, ‘School of Rock’ is a sublime musical with rocking hits and an insane cast which bring the motion picture brilliantly to life on stage. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘School of Rock’ is currently playing at the Edinburgh playhouse until Saturday 29th January.  Get tickets below:

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/school-of-rock/edinburgh-playhouse/

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