It must be at least 10 years since I last watched Jack Black’s 2003 hit film School of Rock: a comedy that brings rock and roll to an elite preparatory school in the USA. It was a timeless movie that I watched multiple times throughout my childhood, with its outrageous plot and larger than life protagonist Dewey Finn. In 2015 the iconic movie was adapted into a stage musical by Julian Fellowes (book), Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Glenn Slater (lyrics), before having successful runs on Broadway and in the West End. Fast forward to 2022 and School of Rock is out on tour across the UK and Ireland. The musical comedy is at The Marlowe Theatre until Saturday 30th April, bringing the amusing story of Dewey Finn and Horace Green School to Kent.
Yesterday evening was The Marlowe Theatre’s press night for School of Rock the Musical and I was excited to see how the creative team had adapted the much-adored comedy for the stage. It was the first performance of the production’s 10-day run here in Canterbury and I was very grateful for the early invitation to see the show. Our seats were in row T of the stalls and the view of the stage was exceptionally clear. I could not wait to see how the ‘Battle of the Bands’ musical numbers would take over the Marlowe stage.
Dewey Finn worships rock and roll. He will not concede and get a ‘real job’ when he is kicked out of the band ‘No Vacancy’ (ironic) and will not make the rental payments this month. Much to the annoyance of his roommate Ned Schneebly and Ned’s controlling partner Patty Di Marco, Dewey is still adamant he will be competing in the Battle of the Bands and plans to use the prize fund to pay for his share of the bills. With no bandmates to perform with, an unexpected phone call to their apartment offers Dewey the financial lifeline he needs, even if he has to mimic his best friend in the process and pretend to be a substitute teacher.
Ned was offered temporary employment at Horace Green School after a staff injury and Dewey withholds this information from Ned so that he can take up the opportunity himself and use the salary to pay for rent. Little does he know, the fifth-graders of Horace Green are extremely talented musicians and might be able to help him enter the Battle of the Bands after all! Over the course of 2 hours and 20 minutes the audience follows the comedic tale of Dewey Finn and his students, as they discreetly prepare to enter the Battle of the Bands competition.
The musical opened with a pre-recorded message from Andrew Lloyd Webber, revealing that the band members do actually play their instruments live on stage in the performance. This was a lovely touch and shows that the creative team behind School of Rock recognise the talent of their young cast. The production is led by Jake Sharp in the role of Dewey and Rebecca Lock as headteacher Miss Mullins, who were both absolutely hilarious. They had such fantastic chemistry, specifically during the scene where they headed to a local bar and mutually bonded over Stevie Nicks’ music. The well-to-do principal on a date with the fake teacher? A wonderful addition to the original movie plot!
Despite Dewey and Miss Mullins acting as the protagonists, I thought it was fantastic how much focus was given to the fifth-graders. You get to learn about their life at home, see the difference Dewey makes to their school day and watch them let their hair down in the finale, something rarely allowed at such a strict school. Stand out student roles for me were lead singer Tomika (played by Jasmine Djazel, Tia Isaac and Souparnika Nair) and stylist Billy (played by Wilf Cooper, Kaylenn Aires Fonseca and Alfie Morwood). Tomika’s acapella rendition of Amazing Grace was absolutely beautiful and Billy commanded the stage with his fashion sense and perfectly timed insults towards Dewey.
Music and lyrics
I was really taken aback by the variety of musical styles in School of Rock. As expected, there were rock numbers such as ‘Stick It to the Man’, ‘You’re in the Band’ and ‘School of Rock’, but there were also some classical inspired tracks such as ‘Here at Horace Green’, which Miss Mullins sang in an operatic style. The score featured pop themes too and ‘If Only You Would Listen’ (performed by some of the students) was my favourite piece of music with its distinct sound and vocal layering. It was performed with lots of raw emotion, with the children highlighting the pain that their characters feel when their parents don’t listen to them. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater actually penned 14 new tunes for the musical score, with each track seamlessly fitting into the storyline. It was great to see these new musical numbers, alongside the songs that made the original film famous!
If I were to summarise School of Rock the Musical* in a phrase it would be high energy. The cast sang, danced and played their musical instruments with such dedication, turning the Marlowe into a rock concert. The entire stalls were on their feet during the finale, singing along to Stick It to the Man. The original songs have been carefully curated to amplify the rock and roll atmosphere, giving each member of the band an opportunity to shine. In just over two hours, the cast managed to lift the spirits of the entire auditorium.
School of Rock is based in Canterbury until next Saturday, when the musical hits the road again for the next leg of its tour. Seeing the hit comedy live on stage is a guaranteed fun night out for all of the family. Looking for something to do in Kent this weekend? Why not give the uplifting stage version of School of Rock a try!
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*Our tickets and programme for School of Rock were gifted in exchange for a review of the performance.