REVIEW: School of Rock The Musical at The Alexandra Birmingham

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock The Musical has embarked on its first-ever UK tour – and it’s an absolute rock n roll riot.

AD: Press night / gifted tickets

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When you think of the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, there’s a strong chance that your mind will wander towards his Olivier award-winning classics such as Phantom and Cats, but his musical take on the much-loved School of Rock has given him the chance to team up with Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) where the duo have truly let their hair down.

Let me start by saying this: School of Rock The Musical is an absolute masterpiece of theatre in which both Lloyd Webber and Fellowes have taken a leaf out of the film’s book and “Stuck It To The Man.”

The story carries the same of the film, where nerdy guitarist Dewey Finn has dreams of winning the Battle of The Bands. He’s kicked out of his band and rock n roll dreams are shattered, leaving him under pressure to pay rent. Desperate to get back on track, Dewey pretends to be his best friend and ends up subbing at a prep school where expectations for both teachers and students are high. Once discovering that his class are musically gifted, he forms the School of Rock with the aims of taking the Battle of The Bands trophy.

Staffordshire’s Jake Sharp reprises his role as Dewey Finn. Credit Paul Coltas

With a cast that’s a 50/50 split of adults and child actors, I was genuinely astonished at just how much the younger company carried this highly energetic show with absolute ease. When the curtain lifts at the beginning of the show, a message from Lloyd Webber is played out to reinforce that all the children are playing the instruments live, so you’d be a fool to even question their talent.

Local lad Jake Sharp has returned to home turf to reprise his role as guitar and rock nerd, Dewey Finn, direct from the West End. This role is notably of Jack Black’s most iconic, with many people – myself included – growing up watching him in the movie. Sharp engrossed the role with ease. He embraces Dewey for everything he is: a hero, role model and idol to his students who just want to be heard by their parents.

Of course, the music hits all the right notes with plenty of heavy bass lines and drum beats that craft a perfected soundtrack that adds an extra bit of oomph to the storyline. Songs from the film make it into the production alongside iconic lines including Billy’s “you’re tacky and I hate you”, which is an absolute hit with the audience.

It’s the kids and the beauty of this show as a whole that wins it for me. Not only has it given Lloyd Webber and Fellowes the chance to truly unleash their creativity, but also showcase the incredibly young, talented actors that are the future of performing arts, whilst showing the importance of role models and relationships with teachers.

The company of School of Rock The Musical. Credit: Paul Coltas

Due to the sheer demand of vocal and physical energy that makes School of Rock the unstoppable show it is, there are numerous sets of children taking on the roles of Horace Green’s pupils. But roll the dice and I guarantee you won’t be let down by whichever of them are taking to the stage.

I want to congratulate them all individually for their outstanding performances, especially under the pressure that the world of theatre has found itself under in the past two years, but special praise must be given to Keira Laver as Summer, the band’s manager, Joseph Sheppard as Zack on lead guitar, Angus McDougall as Lawrence on keys, Eva McGrath as Freddy on d Chloe Marler as Katie on the bass, and Angel Lucero as Tomika.

With lyrics that pack a punch, sprinkles of romance, impeccable comedy and even a nod to the legendary Stevie Nicks, there is no way you can stop the School of Rock from becoming one of the coolest productions in the world right now.

It’s a side of Lloyd Webber that we don’t often get to see, packed to the rafters with energy that has the audience clapping, singing and loving every second. School of Rock The Musical is a truly enjoyable piece of theatre.

School of Rock The Musical runs at The Alexandra Birmingham until Saturday, February 5. Click here to book tickets and find out more about the show.

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