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Stuart King

Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at the New London Theatre

School of Rock The Musical Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Julian Fellowes (hardly the types generally associated with rebelliousness), are ‘the talent’ behind this stage adaptation of Richard Linklater’s 2003 film, in which a down-on-his-luck, guitar-playing slob, Dewey Finn (played with gusto in the West End by Gary Trainor), surreptitiously wangles a job as a supply teacher at a posh prep school, where he introduces his already musically talented young charges, to the joys of rock.

Ms Mullins (Florence Andrews) the starchy Principal of Horace Green School is used to hearing the kids’ instrumental backing as she trills Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria - but her spectacles and pinned-up tresses suggest the storytellers are itching to provide her with an excuse to let down her hair later in the show. For the most part however, she paces the school corridors, telling children not to run, fretting that standards are maintained, anxiously hoping fee-paying parents are pleased and trying to catch Finn behaving badly as he covertly coaches his classroom of rock prodigies into readiness to enter “The Battle of the Bands”.

An assortment of other adult characters aid the simplistic narrative, but the real stars of the evening - as you would expect - are the kids themselves, who despite their uniforms, enthusiastically leap and throw themselves into every opportunity to vent their energy. Along with their annoyingly precocious personalities, the hoard of pre-teens collectively demonstrate considerable musical skill; each is also afforded moments in which to display facets of their often amusing, burgeoning individuality.

Given the relative immaturity of the lead character (and indeed his classroom audience), it is perhaps an unfair criticism of Glenn Slater’s lyrics, that they rarely rise to wit or do anything other than support a generally lampooning style. Along with JoAnn M Hunter’s choreography, Laurence Connor’s direction keeps everyone in the right spot in this energetic and frenetic show (although one child had a bump on the night I saw it, and was replaced - seamlessly - for the second half).

Many would argue that Lloyd-Webber’s career is long past his best work, but a man of his theatrical experience couldn’t have failed to produce a show of explosive fun from such source material and the production will undoubtedly continue to entertain audiences at the New London Theatre for many performances to come.

School of Rock tickets