School of Rock
Class is Session – Make some Noise
Last night saw the Sunderland Empire Gala re-opening night and there could have been little doubt that choosing School of Rock was the best show to celebrate with.
Packed to the rafters, the theatre rocked as one as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage production of the 2003 Richard Linklater / Jack Black movie blew away any feelings of uncertainty and shone the bright spotlights back on the good times.
Led by Jake Sharp as Dewey Finn (reprising his role from the West End production) and joined by Rebecca Lock (Curtains) as Rosalie Mullins, Matthew Rowland as Ned Schneebly and Nadia Violet Johnson as Patty Di Marco, the stage was set for the adults to play second bill to the amazing cast of rock kids.
The story is one of Dewey Finn, wannabe rock god but actual sponger who dreams more than he delivers and is always looking to blame ‘The Man’ for his downfalls. On a chance opportunity, Finn cons his way into a supply teacher role at a prestigious prep school and, throwing their curriculum out of the window, proceeds to teach the kids all he knows about rocking out and sticking it to the man.
The kids welcome this change in approach and, using their already considerable talents, begin to form Finn’s newest rock band, initially believing this was all part of the school system. Ultimately, their/Finn’s aim is to win the Battle of the Bands, an open mike competition in a rock club but to do so, Finn must persuade principal Mullins that he should be allowed to take his class on the required ‘field trip’.
Jake Sharp is an amazing performer – channeling the mania of Jack Black, adding in a little John Belushi and then wrapping it all in great singing and brilliant guitar playing, his Dewey Finn is a lovable loser who frustrates as much as he excites. Rebecca Lock, as principal Mullins, provides the starched counterpoint to Sharp, a locked box of repressed emotions, shouldering the burdens of the kids parents without any release valve until Finn shows her the way.
Staying very true to the movie in both plot and many of the purpose written songs, the pace is relentless; like all good rock albums it doesn’t let you rest before going into another great tune, all performed by the cast & band. An opening announcement confirming that the kids all play their own instruments just serves to create even more awe at how amazing their performances are and all done with genuine enjoyment and masses of energy.
The only slight on this amazing night was that, due to an evacuation right after the last main musical number, the amazing cast were not able to receive the undoubtedly massive ovation they would have had at the final curtain – such a shame but if ever there was a great reason to go and see if again, this is it.
School of Rock is at Sunderland Empire until Saturday 9th October