School of Rock, New London Theatre, review: ‘A fizzing and foot-stomping success’

PUBLISHED: 16:00 22 November 2016

David Fynn (Dewey Finn) & the kids from School of Rock, photo by Tristram Kenton

David Fynn (Dewey Finn) & the kids from School of Rock, photo by Tristram Kenton

©Tristram Kenton

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber pens a raft of fizzing songs and Julian Fellowes’s book keeps the action tight while foregrounding the pressure of these pre-teens labouring under parental expectations

Fans of the 2003 Jack Black movie won’t be disappointed by Laurence Connor’s barnstormingly joyous musical featuring an entire class of talented youngsters.

And who’d have thought the unlikely marriage of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes would musically exhort an audience to ‘Stick It To The Man’?

Sticking closely to Mike White’s plot and dialogue, it follows slobbish man-child Dewey Finn who, chucked out of his band and threatened with eviction, blags his way into an elite prep school and surrepticiously teaches its hot-housed kids to rock.

Harking back to his rock origins, Lloyd Webber pens a raft of fizzing songs and from the opening pomp rock of ‘I’m Too Hot For You’ to the foot-stomping finale where the kids ace the Battle of the Bands, Glenn Slater’s lyrics celebrate the absurdity and anarchic energy of rock every bit as much as Spinal Tap.

Fellowes’s book keeps the action tight while foregrounding the pressure of these pre-teens labouring under parental expectations. In the soul-searching ‘If Only You Would Listen’ they try to communicate with parents who see them more as an extension of themselves than individuals.

The vocally dextrous Florence Andrews as buttoned up principal Rosalie pulls off the most memorable song ‘Where Did The Rock Go?’ and inevitably lets down her hair as she channels her inner Stevie Nicks.

Physically resembling Black, David Fynn sweats buckets as he journeys from selfish slacker to a more likeable guy, as he tells the horrified parents: ‘These kids have touched me and I’m pretty sure I’ve touched them.’

Three casts of children play their own instruments, on our night Nicole Dube made a moving shy Tomika who finds her voice and Tom Abisgold was an impressively angry axeman Zack.

From peers of the realm to 12-year-olds and pensioners, School of Rock’s vital lesson is that we could all do with a liberating, rebellious dose of loud music once in a while.

Rock salutes all round.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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His sister, Leonie Orton says: “Over the years, young men I’ve never met have come up to say they were closeted until they read Joe’s diary, that’s part of his legacy.”

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