By Pauline Smith
School of Rock – The Musical
Based on the Paramount movie by Mike White
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater, book by Julian Fellowes
Directed by Madeleine Johns
Redcliffe Musical Theatre
Redcliffe Entertainment Centre
102 Anzac Avenue Redcliffe
Season: from 9 to 18 July. Bookings: www.redcliffemusicaltheatre.com/schoolofrock
A thoroughly enjoyable and vibrant performance, School of Rock rocked the socks off the COVID-friendly audience last night.
School of Rock follows the story of Dewey Finn (Thomas Armstrong-Robley) and his dream to win the Battle of the Bands. Dewey has his own band, No Vacancy, but is thrown out on his ear. He is also about to get kicked out of his best friend’s apartment because he is not paying rent.
Dewey takes the drastic step of pretending to be his best friend, Ned Schneebly (Dominic Bradley), to take a job as a substitute teacher at a prestigious school, Horace Green. There he realises that the kids he is teaching can actually create his dream, so he shapes them into a rock band. And there is also a love story entwined as Dewey falls for the lovely, but stiff principal, Miss Rosalie Mullins (Georgia Burnett), and helps her rediscover her inner rock chick.
This musical is full on rock and there is a lot of adult themed innuendo. There are also a lot of laughs as Dewey stumbles his way through a school day, trying not to be discovered that he is not a teacher.
While the adults were only miming playing instruments, the kids were playing for real. Unfortunately, there was a technical hitch, and the kids’ guitars stopped working. The live band back stage compensated for this, however were too overpowering and loud, drowning out most of the lyrics, even though everyone was miked. Even so, it was obvious that the kids were exceptionally talented, still playing as though nothing was amiss. The band kids were: Zack on lead guitar (Jake Murdoch), Lawrence on keyboard (Rohan Fenwick), Freddy on drums (Cael Armitage), and Katie on bass guitar (Zara Kan).
The other class members all get given parts ‘in the band’ and the young lady playing Summer (Rachael Noskoff) in last night’s production, was very well cast. If anyone was going to get Dewey into trouble, it was her, until he makes her the band’s manager. The other stand out class member is another young lady who played Tamika (Kayla Peki). She had a powerful voice for one so young. Her rendition of Amazing Grace was superb. And while I have not mentioned everyone by name, each class member contributed to the whole, and put everything they had into it.
Armstrong-Robley was incredible as Dewey Finn. His energy was only matched by the kids themselves, particularly in numbers like Stick it to the Man and School of Rock. And while there are always comparisons drawn between anyone who plays this role and Jack Black, who was Finn in the Paramount movie, Armstrong-Robley stepped up to the mic and delivered the goods. Georgia Burnett, as the school’s principal, was equally up to the task, with her song Where Did the Rock Go?, where she pines for her past as a wild child.
Bradley as Ned, and his stuck up girlfriend, Patty Di Marco (Melanie Fuller) were great in their roles, and Ned eventually stands up to Patty and goes back to his rocker younger days to support Dewey at the Battle of the Bands.
The opening of the show was cleverly done with Jeff Sanderson (Peter Hurren) pumping up the audience, taking roll call and handing out detentions to anyone taking their seats late, as well as covering the usual copyright laws and turning off phones.
The band, No Vacancy, also require a mention in that they are so ridiculously typecast with no talent, that it was hilarious. The adults who portray the teachers, parents and various other characters rounded out this production.
The choreography by Taylah McLennan and Jasmine Reese was explosive, energetic and fun.
The costumes in the main were school uniforms and very proper attire for the teachers, the exception being Dewey who kept turning up in the same clothes every day, shirt untucked and sneakers. However, the costumes for the kids for the Battle were more of a rock influenced take on a school uniform. Angus Young (ACDC) would be proud.
There was only a slight lag between some scenes as backdrops and props were changed, so the pace didn’t drop off too much.
I saw the professional production of this musical at the Lyric a few years back and did notice that some of the dialogue was changed to match the current affairs of today. This production does not pale against that one; it keeps the rock keep on rockin’.
For quite a few members of the cast, this was their first debut on stage. I hope they keep it up as it will be wonderful to see them blossom.