12 November 2018

Review: School of Rock, The Musical

School of Rock, The Musical
GWB Entertainment and S&CO
in association with KHAM Inc
by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Limited
9 November 2018
Her Majesty's Theatre
to 3 February 2019, the non to Sydney and Brisbane

School of Rock, the Musical. Brent Hill

I'm all for "sticking it to the Man" and treating children with respect and letting them rock in a total killer of a finale, but don't make me try and say that Andrew Lloyd Webber rocks. School of Rock, The Musical rocks about as much as an Andrew Lloyd The Man Webber musical.

The trend to bring popular films (School of Rock the film was released in 2003) to the musical stages isn't going anywhere. Sometimes the musical version captures the heart of the film and expands on character and theme to make something bigger, different and amazing, like The Lion King and Legally Blonde. Others strip away what makes a film work, forget why characters are loved, tries to put a film story structure onto a stage and adds a soundtrack that doesn't add much. Why watch a live version of a film we can watch at home? The shows that dig deep into the success of the original story and make it something new are the ones that rock.

School of Rock's a heap of safe fun; the film joke about ALW has even stayed. It's the story of Dewey Finn, a slack aging rocker who scams his way into a substitute teacher job at a posh school, because he needs the moolah, and forms a band with his primary school students. The musical looks like the film – without the stage dives – and Brent Hill is terrific as Jack Black. Dewey was created for Black and it would be kinda wonderful to see what actors can do with the role rather than being like Black.

The adult roles are diluted to ideas of characters with the likes of uptight angry girlfriend, angry dad who spends too much time at work, and teacher so dull I can't remember them. But there are great moments like "You're in the Band" when Dewey gets his class motivated and "Where did the Rock Go" that finally lets Amy Lepalmer take off her glasses – all repressed strict head teachers wear glasses – and remember that she can rock.

Grown ups aside, the child cast of students kick enough ass to make up for any dullness; a lot of the show is spent waiting for scenes with the kids. As does the the choreography (originally by JoAnne M Hunter) that never tries to make the kids move like adults and lets them dance like totally rocking kids. There are three casts of Melbourne kids – who all play their own instruments – and there will be people who go back to see all three.

School of Rock, The Musical doesn't "Stick It To The Man" rather than give him(s) another diamond-encrusted stick to lean on but maybe the totally-rock kids in the show and those who see the it (even the cheap seats are expensive, so that's few) will start listening to the bands mentioned (not played) and learn what rock really is.

PS. As Julian Downtown Abbey Fellowes adapted the film script for the book, I now want a Downton Abbey musical so much. So much.

PPS. The screen writer of the film (and film Ned) is Mike White, who is on the current American season of Survivor. #TeamMike

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