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Review: School Of Rock (New Wimbledon Theatre)

Andrew Lloyd Webber's School of Rock returns to London this week for the first time since concluding its West End run in 2020. As part of its first UK tour, it is stopping here for a week of Wimbledon before continuing its trek around the country,



Based on the classic film from 2003, the musical adaptation was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, playing for other three years in both the West End and on Broadway. Telling the story of Dewey Finn who pretends to be a substitute teacher and turns his students into a rock band to compete in the Battle of the bands competition.

Dewey Finn is played by Jake Sharp, reprising the role he alternated at the Gillian Lynne Theatre during the West End run. Full of energy, he is instantly loveable even when committing fraud around children - a testament to his own charm and acting talents. The always incredible Rebecca Lock is reliably fantastic as Rosalie Mullins. While she doesn't have much to do to begin with, the moments she is given something to work with, she truly shines, culminating with a showstopping performance of 'Where Did The Rock Go?'. Matthew Rowland and Nadia Violet Johnson also have small but mighty roles as (the real) Ned Schneebly and Patty Di Marco respectively.



If it feels like the supporting adult cast may be underwritten, it is for a very good reason - this show is about the children, and what an amazing bunch they are. Playing their own instruments and demonstrating a ridiculous amount of talent, it is admirably sickening just how good they are. A rotating cast of kids make up these characters, but at this performance the 12 kids included Souparnika Nair showcasing a beautiful voice as Tomika, William Laborde spellbindingly good as Zack, Olivier Pearce and Emerson Sutton both brilliant as Lawrence and Freddy and Layla Pages giving it her best "Hermione Granger" as Summer. Both individually and as a group, they were ridiculously impressive. I definitely got the impression I was looking at some future stars on that stage.


While Andrew Lloyd Webber has never been one of my favourite composers, School of Rock is up there for me as one of his best shows. It feels very different when compared to his usual work and is far more consistent with high quality musical numbers as opposed to one memorable song (Literally with Cats) and a lot of filler. With lyrics from Glenn Slater, this rock musical boasts 'Stick It To The Man', the title number 'School of Rock' and the absolute showstopper 'If Only You Would Listen' which was the highlight of the whole performance for me. Though more conventional tropes in Andrews shows are present, these are far more varied then some of his other shows. There are also hilarious nods to two of his other shows Cats and Phantom of the Opera dotted throughout.



The book, written by Julian Fellowes, is full of humour - some a lot more adult than you would expect with the odd swearword thrown in and some adult themes. This adds to the shows strength, ensuring there is plenty to keep audience members of all ages entertained. Some dialogue has been updated since the show was last seen with references to TikTok and the recent horror movie Cats. While the punchlines come thick and fast, not every joke lands. For example, I definitely feel like society has moved past the need for gay characters to be portrayed as stereotypical caricatures for a laugh.


With direction from Laurence Connor, the action flows satisfyingly - while it is often impossible to recreate a West End set on a touring one, they do a great job here with moving sets transforming the space with ease. The set design from Anna Louizos allows the fantastic choreography from Joann M Hunter to shine, with the curtain call allowing the entire cast full of kids and big kids alike to fulfil their rock star fantasies.



School of Rock is a show that knows what it wants to achieve and delivers it perfectly. Telling a story full of charm and heart that touches on important messages such as voices being heard, this is ultimately a feelgood show that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and some joy in your soul. If this show was cheerful before the pandemic, that is only amplified now. Pure theatre escapism at its finest, this comeback tour proves there is no stopping School of Rock and for that we should all be thankful.


★★★★


School of Rock plays at New Wimbledon Theatre until March 26th and tours around the UK until August. Full dates and tickets at https://uktour.schoolofrockthemusical.com/


Photos by Paul Coltas


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