Quick Change Review: School Of Rock (Tour)
Do you remember those classmates who would stumble through the school year, and then smash the final exams?
That’s kind of how I feel about School Of Rock.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical comedy based on the cult movie has all the potential to be a top achiever, but falls short of the mark in meeting expectations. Until the final number.
Since debuting on Broadway in 2015, it doesn’t feel like much has changed at Horace Green. The book by Julian Fellowes feels gappy, shooting for class clown gags that repetitively poke fun at body image. The lazy lines rouse a few giggles at the back of the class but nothing too hearty.
The lack of imagination transcends into the set, too. Granted, it's a tour but the paper-thin 2D backdrops threaten to fall every time somebody gets a little close and there's little that feels immersive.
Photo by Paul Coltas
Like with school itself, it’s the people you remember and the cast saves this show. Jake Sharp becomes Dewey Finn with aplomb, pouring his all into what he had to work with. As the imposter substitute teacher, Mr Schnee(e)bly, coordinating a rock band project Sharp is entertaining to watch. He gets minimal relief during the performance and is committed to every second.
When sharing the stage with Matthew Rowland (the real Ned Schneebly), there’s real physical comedy in the chemistry of the unlikely duo that leaves you wanting more.
The kids, of course, are brilliant. Florence Moluluo is the perfect Summer Hathaway - assured, confident and decidedly charming. In the band: Thomas Harvey, Ava Masters, Oliver Pearce and William Laborde are wildly talented. They're able to expertly play their instruments, act and remain totally in character.
It’s the characterisation that shines - all of the kids have clearly watched the movie and injected their own take into the characters they’re portraying, pledging allegiance to the band and to the performance.
The band initiation number ‘You’re In The Band’ is a triumph with boundless energy and transferred into youthful angst unleashed in ‘Stick It To The Man’. These numbers are epic. Unfortunately they’re few and far between boring and forgettable patriotic sounding tunes that do nothing but repeat what we know: Horace Green is a boring place to be.
A stand out moment is ‘If Only You Would Listen’, where several of the children plead to be heard by their otherwise engaged parents. It’s a tender moment that accelerates the relationship between them and their rookie substitute teacher, especially during the reprisal later on.
This is what the show should focus on: how music can help you to feel heard in a world where you feel your voice is lost.
There’s heart somewhere in this musical for both kids, and those who are kids at heart. You’ve just got to find it under the general stench and tunnel-vision from writers who need to revise and text and take the resit.
It is of course the finale that sees the ‘School Of Rock’ truly have their deserved moment in the spotlight. That performance alone makes it a pretty great field-trip.