School of Rock – Edinburgh Playhouse

Music& Lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater

Directed by Laurence Connor

Book by Julian Fellowes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the beginning, there was Rock. Hardcore and legendary. Where did it all go wrong?

Layabout, untidy and jobless – Dewey has more than his fair few problems, chief of them being his best friend’s newest partner Patty. With the rent past due, and having been thrown out of his longtime band Dewey is down in the dumps when an opportunity arrises. Disguising himself as best friend Ned, Dewey takes on the role of Mr Schneebly, substitute teacher, and accepts a teaching position within Horace Green. But who’d have thought he would find his muse in the halls of a prestigious school, from a bunch of classical playing, gold star hungry kids.

In adapting the 2003 film of the same name, which has become nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater draw from their experiences to extend the musical repertoire of the script, serving lashings of additional music numbers and plot twists to offer a new, if still familiar experience for fans.

From Jesus Christ Superstar to Evita, the rock anthems of Lloyd Webber have a pedigree which, at times, is lacking somewhat from School of Rock’s score. The numbers that stand out are often crafted originally for the film, with exceptional numbers Where Did The Rock Go? and Stick it to the Man belting out across the theatre more from a performance perspective than their musicality. Rebecca Lock, channelling both Head Teacher Rosalie and Queen of the Night is a pleasure to watch, devoted to the character’s stiff choreography as equally as her more lucid and humorous moments.

Movement plays as significant a role as the vocals, Joann M. Hunter’s choreography heightening the aggression within key numbers to rev the audience into the foot-stomping, fist-shaking and cheering crowd the show thrives upon. It flows well with Anna Louizo’s design work which carries momentum, transforming the minuscule though details set of Horace Green into lengthy corridors fit for super-spy children looking to escape the school’s clutches.

Illegal parties, fraud, indulgence and deceit – Richard Linklater’s cinematic School of Rock is now just shy of twenty years old (yes, we too feel old). And yet, its attitude towards ‘The Man’ is perhaps the rallying cry audiences need to wake up and channel the Rock spirit which has faded from the masses. And playing into this narrative is the maestro of mayhem themselves Jake Sharp as substitute teacher in disguise Dewey. Adorable, grotesque and with the voice of a hungover angel, Sharp is everything the show strives to emulate from the film, and build on.

Talk about enthusiasm, talk about revelling within the characters’ less than admirable qualities. And quite rightly, Sharp understands that despite being our principal lead character, the kids are more than alright on the night, achieving synergy with them, lifting each into the rafters to be a stand-alone star in their own right. And extending the plot thread of Tamika, the quiet new girl comes with a significant weight of affection, leading to a glorious solo from Souparnika Nair.

Summer arrives early this year, Freddie is re-born and the twinkling ivories rival those of Elton himself. Indeed, as tired as the expression is, the children are the future. The entire tiny tottering cast performs with gusto and relish for the industry – a wonderful reinforcer in these uncertain times. A tight community of performers; the companies ability to maintain pace and connection across the board is what sells the entire show.

Rock got no reason, Rock got no rhyme, but the Lloyd Webber musical bucks the trend with its slip into the musical world of Rock theatre. Recapture your inner Hendrx and bring a new generation of Bowie’s into the theatre to relive School of Rock, bringing with it charisma, attitude and energy to the capital. The Edinburgh Playhouse has never been more Hardcore.

The School of Rock runs at Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 29th January. Tickets can be obtained here.

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