REVIEW – Phenomenal show rocks Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber style’

If you were perchance nearby the Alexandra Theatre last night then you couldn’t help but feel the streets pulsating as the ‘School of Rock’ hit Birmingham.

The packed audience comprised an awful lot of excited, dressed-to-boogie scholars, who were there to rock along to this jolly tale of how prim-and-proper private school students end up performing at the ‘Battle of the Bands.’

It’s actually all down to a ‘down but not out’ rock musician by the name of Dewey Finn. Sacked from his band, Dewey sponges free digs at his best friend Ned’s house much to the chagrin of Ned’s nag-bag fiancée Patty.

Patty wants Dewey to pay rent or get out; but luckily for Dewy, he takes a phone call intended for Ned offering him a substitute teacher’s job at the ‘Horace Green’ school. The lure of the American green back is too much of a temptation and Dewey passes himself off as Mr Schneebly, aka Ned.

The kids in his class are all classical music playing academic swats who he changes into his rocklets on a rocky road of discovery. As the song goes ‘Don’t know much trigonometry but what a wonderful world this can be!’

They say actors should never work with kids or animals – well, Jake Sharp as Dewy has to work with a dozen of them – and three different dozens on a circulating rota to boot.  Wouldn’t be a school without kids of course and it wouldn’t be a school of rock without these dirty dozens.

Sharp feeds off them and they take inspiration from him – it’s a lovely merry go round.  He rarely pauses for breath and his performance is  – in a word – phenomenal.

The line-up of ‘Horace Green Kids’ in the band on press night was Eva McGrath as Freddy on drums (and boy, could she pound those skins!), Chloe Marler as Katie booming it out on bass, Joseph Sheppard as cool dude Zack on lead guitar and Angus McDougall as Lawrence, the keyboard player who could give Rick Wakeman a run for his money. These young heroes do actually play the instruments – there is no miming.

They were joined in the classroom by Logan Matthews as Billy the band’s dresser, Keira Laver as Summer, the band manager and Angel Lucero as Tomika, the quiet girl who finds an Aretha Franklin voice and becomes the band’s lead singer

Completing the magnificently far from  dirty dozen as head bangers and backing singers were Riotafari Gardner as   James, Ava Masters as Sophie, Alex Shotton  as Mason, Lily Rose Martin as Marcy and Elisha Kerai as Shonelle.

There is also a large adult company multi–role playing and multi-tasking. Stand-out performances for me were Rebecca Locke as head teacher (and secret Stevie Nicks wannabe) Rosalie Mullins, Annell O’Dartey as the super efficient Mrs Hathaway and Mathew Rowland as Dowey’s hand bagged ex-rock chum Ned Schneebly.

In truth Andrew Lloyd Webber isn’t a rock writer but a musical theatre writer who has applied his genius to taking what was a highly successful film with some classic established numbers and completely turned it on it’s head. Yes it rocks, but Lloyd-Webber style.

The book is by the legendary pen of Julian Fellowes with lyrics by Glenn Slater. The Musical Director of the grown-up band is Michael Riley and the overall director of this happy show is Laurence Connor.

School of Rock runs at the Alex until Saturday. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

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