Review: School of Rock – 7/10 see me

School of Rock - Report Day

School Report – Autumn Term 2016

Dear Mr & Mrs Lloyd Webber

Thank you for asking for an update on Andrew’s progress this term. Andrew is an extremely capable pupil and clearly enjoys the movie “School of Rock”, so we were very pleased when he decided to adapt it for the stage as his most recent school project. The whole school had very much enjoyed his earlier projects The Phantom of the Opera and also the one about the cats.

The show started very promisingly with the rock group “No Vacancy” on stage and we all felt very sorry for the main character “Dewey” when he was thrown “outta the band”. The actor playing Dewey, David Fynn, had great energy and really engaged with the audience – and what extraordinary abdominals the lead singer has!

Dewey at the Blackboard
David Fynn as Dewey Finn

Whilst we understand that Andrew has made good friends with another of our boys, Julian Fellowes, we do wonder whether their close friendship actually added much to the project which wasn’t already in the film? Dewey’s flatmates, and in fact most of the adult characters, were poorly written and, we felt, rather one-dimensional.

The words, which we understand were written by a third boy, Glenn Slater, were really rather good when we could actually hear them – we especially enjoyed “Horace Green’s Alma Mater”. The scene about teaching a class of nine year olds what a hangover is was also very funny.

It's a hard rock life for us
It’s a hard rock life for us

We perhaps felt that modern references to Pokemon Go and The Kardashians jarred and we probably would have left those out. Bringing popular references up to date seems unnecessarily annoying to fans of the film.

It might be an idea to ask Andrew not to make such a big deal about telling everyone that the kids in the show actually play the instruments on stage – they do some of the time but the ones we saw definitely weren’t playing Queen of the Night – although I know that’s nit-picky.

Florence Andrews as Rosalie Mullins
Florence Andrews as Rosalie Mullins

The show really comes alive when the kids are on stage – “You’re In The Band” was terrific fun and the bit where the little girl tried to sing memory really made us chuckle.

We appreciated the inclusion of the gay parents but did they really have to be so clichéd? The little boy who loves Streisand and hides Vogue inside Sports Illustrated is more than enough stereotyping for one show.

As someone who has actually been in a staffroom, it might also be worth asking Andrew if the director (Laurence Connor) could redirect the scene with the teachers so that they aren’t all complete musical theatre stereotypes? There’s really no need for hammy acting in every adult scene.

Stick It To The Man
Stick It To The Man – and then do it all again!

What really WAS terrific was the song “Stick It To The Man” – in fact it was the standout song of the show (borne out by the amount of times it reappears) and probably one of the best things Andrew has written in ages.

We did love the kids (I think we mentioned that!) – especially their suggestion to name their band “The Koalas” or “Pigs Rectum” although some of the best jokes got lost because of the sound which was a shame.

Other highlights for us were the excellently staged slow motion run to Battle of the Bands, some great lines “The Yoda Hospice for Children out of Luck” and the scene where Huey pretends the kids are all dying – “OK Kids, lets go get your wheelchairs!”.

The show comes alive when the kids are on stage
The show comes alive when the kids are on stage

Character development was a little better in Act Two and we really enjoyed the scene in the bar where the head-teacher gets drunk and thinks she’s Stevie Nicks. It’s just a pity that her big rock ballad, “Where did the Rock go?” could have been much more moving with a better back story from Mr Fellowes.

When the script works, it’s great. Lines like “Did Superman just come out?” and “I had 20-20 vision – now it’s 20-20 Eurovision” were smashing – it’s just let down by the lack of credible adult characters. Well, that’s apart from Dewey who is loveable throughout – even when he’s a nightmare! He truly inspires the school and by the end of the show the audience is really rooting for him – even when he’s talking to the parents about their kids and says “They have touched me and I can tell you, I have definitely touched them”…which was hugely inappropriate but very funny.

The Battle of the Bands at the end of the show really did send the audience wild. So, to sum up:

Positives
A great story with a big heart, a superb song “Stick it to the man”, loveable kids, funny lines – and yes the kids really do play the instruments (with a little help from the offstage band)

Things to work on
Poor diction means some great lines are lost, adults need to stop “musical theatre acting” and be given better direction and material, Preeya Kalidas in particular should stop hamming it up

Effort: A-
Attainment: C
Our verdict: A good effort

Buy Tickets for School of Rock here
New London Theatre
Drury Lane
London WC2B 5PF