Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical, which has taken over the New London Theatre, has already premiered in New York to great acclaim. School of Rock, which has lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes (who seems to be having a bit of a thing for musicals lately – he’s also updated the book for Half a Sixpence), is based on the Jack Black film of the same name, following the journey of an unemployed music-loving wastrel who through a case of mistaken identity gets a job as a teacher in a posh school. Eschewing normal lessons, he focuses instead on turning his class into a rock band aiming to win the Battle of the Bands competition.
Because of the band, the kids are able to face their own problems and develop confidence, but once Dewey’s deception is discovered it’s a race against time to sneak the kids to the competition anyway – hopefully winning everyone over in the process.
The show is great fun, with an appealing lead character in Dewey (played by David Fynn) and strong support from Oliver Jackson and Preeya Kalidas as his long-suffering friend and his girlfriend. However, it really takes off when the kids enter the scene. They’re a talented bunch and they play all their own instruments. I particularly liked Eva Trodd as group manager Summer, and Amma Ris as the shy Tonika.
Some songs are taken from the film, others are brand new, including the highlight ‘Where Did the Rock Go’, sung by the school’s headteacher Rosalie Mullins (Florence Andrews). As a kind of rock ballad it’s a bit different to the standard rock soundtrack, which is very catchy and energetic. It’s admittedly rather odd when you think those bastions of the establishment, Lloyd Webber and Fellowes, have come up with sentiments such as ‘Stick It to the Man’, but if you can shrug your shoulders and just go with the flow, it’s infectious.
School of Rock doesn’t have particularly profound insights, but it’s lots of fun and you leave the auditorium feeling cheered. I can’t think of a more rocking night out in the West End at the moment.