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School of Rock – The Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre

The great thing about taking a show like School of Rock the Musical on tour is that it draws audiences who wouldn’t have necessarily travelled into the West End to see, well, anything – and here, the production’s quality is as good as I recall it was when the show had a residency at what was then called the New London Theatre. Dewey Finn (Jake Sharp) takes a call from Rosalie Mullins (Rebecca Lock), the latter being the principal of Horace Green Preparatory School. There are unexpected consequences, some of which are more plausible than others.

School of Rock - Credit Paul ColtasThat said, an analysis of how credible each significant event is would amount to being too much of a killjoy: the wider point that the show tries to make is not entirely dissimilar to the one made by the eccentric Douglas Hector in The History Boys. There are certain things that, although not on the curriculum, are beneficial for pupils to learn regardless. But while Hector believed in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, Finn utilises his freedom in the classroom to plot and scheme a return to the stage, having been booted out of a rock band called No Vacancy.

Being a rock musical, the music is fairly loud, and not every lyric sung is crystal clear, though I suppose as good a job as could be done is achieved with the sound. When combined with the lighting effects, the show provides an impressive atmosphere – the discipline of the audience to remain seated and quiet, serve as the sole reminders that this is a theatrical production, and not a rock concert.

The backdrop of a snobbish private school provides a contrast to Finn’s perennial desire to indulge in rock and roll. Finn eavesdrops on in a music lesson led by Mullins, in which the children play classical music: what gives the show the ‘wow’ factor, well before the end of the show, is that (some of) the children are multi-instrumentalists, adept at, say, the guitar as well as the cello. Then there is Tomika (at this performance, Souparnika Nair), who brings the house down with a rendering of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. This isn’t the only show to have a character who barely says anything only to later unveil an angelic sound, and isn’t the only show to demonstrate how music can provide a cathartic release. But I’ve yet to see one that includes quite so many children as actor-musicians.

With a brisk pace to match the youthful vigour of its characters, the show takes the concerns and frustrations of the children seriously, portraying their parents as busybodies who don’t take the time to either celebrate their successes or console them after a bad day. Others have seemingly admirable aspirations for their children, but their passions are not shared by their offspring. In the land of the free where there is such a wide choice of possible career paths in any event, there’s something to be said for allowing people to enjoy life, and not follow in the footsteps of those who might well enjoy a decent salary but are otherwise fundamentally unhappy.

This even extends to Mullins herself, who is almost floored by an invitation to drinks from Finn – nobody, she says, ever wants to socialise with the principal. A deception becomes ever more elaborate until it cannot be contained, but there’s something of a redemption for practically everyone, which ensures a happy ending.

Patty Di Marco (Nadia Violet Johnson), possibly the closest thing the show has to an antagonist, is savvy enough to close the book when she’s reached the last page, so to speak. Freddy Hamilton (at this performance, Emerson Sutton) bashes away at the drum kit with flair and enthusiasm. Ava Masters’ Katie, on bass guitar, pulls off the most convincing display of someone who loves to rock.

Some of the dialogue has been updated to fit the times in which we live. Julian Fellowes’ book is unafraid to poke fun at composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, with references to the likes of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Full of energy, this high-octane production continues to raise the roof, with a level of positivity that is hard to resist but is never saccharine.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Based on the hilarious hit movie, this new musical follows Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. There he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band – sensationally performed live by the production’s young actors every night with roof-raising energy! While teaching these pint-sized prodigies what it means to truly rock, Dewey falls for the school’s beautiful, but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within.

School of Rock – The Musical features new music written by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid, Sister Act) and a book by Julian Fellowes.

Originally directed by Laurence Connor (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, London Palladium 2019) with choreography by JoAnn M Hunter, set and costume designs by Anna Louizos, lighting design by Natasha Katz and sound design by Mick Potter.

Since the tour launched in Hull last September, Jake Sharp has led the adult cast as Dewey Finn in spectacular style having previously performed the role in the West End. Alex Tomkins performs in the role at certain performances. They are joined by Rebecca Lock as Rosalie Mullins, Matthew Rowland as Ned Schneebly and Nadia Violet Johnson as Patty Di Marco.

The remaining adult cast comprise Ryan Bearpark, James Bisp, Joanna O’Hare, Samuel Haughton, Tom Hext, Harveen Mann, Richard Morse, Annell Odartey, Amy Oxley, Helena Pipe, Michaela Powell, Richard Vorster and Craig Watson.

The new children are: Effie Lennon Ballard (eleven years old from South Derbyshire) who will play Katie, Dereke Oladele (ten years old from South London), Max Ivemey (twelve years old from Hampshire), Aadi Patel (12 years old from Kent) who will all play the role of James; Ruthie Heathcote (nine years old from Woking), Ziana Olarewaju (11 years old from South London) will play Sophie, Kaylenn Aires Fonseca (eleven years old from East London) who will play Billy, Layla Pages (eleven years old from Surrey), Evie Marner (twelve years old from Hertfordshire) and Florence Moluluo (nine years old from Bolton) will play Summer; Tia Isaac (eleven years old from East London), will play Tomika; Liza Deikalo (10 years old from West London) will play Marcy.

The new children will join the current children’s cast who comprise of Eva McGrath (thirteen years old from Birmingham), Emerson Sutton (thirteen years old from the West Midlands), Thomas Harvey (twelve years old from Cheshire) and Isaac Forward (twelve years old from Buckinghamshire) who play Freddy; Daisy Hanna (thirteen years old from Surrey), Ivy Balcombe (nine years old from Surrey) and Ava Masters (eleven years old from Kent) who play Katie; Oliver Forde (twelve years old from London), Angus McDougall (thirteen years old from Buckinghamshire), David Gluhovsky (twelve years old from London) and Oliver Pearce (eleven years old from North Wales) who play Lawrence; Joseph Sheppard (twelve years old from the West Midlands), Harry Churchill (nine years old from Devon), Hanley Webb (ten years old from Northamptonshire) and William Laborde (twelve years old from Surrey) who play Zack.


Mon 21 March – Sat 26 March
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