Stick it to the man!
With talented kids playing musical instruments, singing, dancing and displaying the great energy that only kids can muster, School of Rock The Musical is a high energy show with great family appeal.
School of Rock The Musical does not stray far from the 2003 film starring Jack Black. The 2019 musical production is led by Brent Hill assuming the role of Dewey Finn well. He is larger than life and carries the show right through to the end when his showmanship takes him into the role of host.
The production is an unusual choice of musical for Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s quite a departure from Phantom of the Opera and Cats but Lloyd Webber started his career writing classic rock opera with lyricist partner Tim Rice with compiled work in Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and to a slight lesser extent, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
According to Lloyd Webber, “School of Rock is a story about the empowering voice of music. It tells of how music brings joy to people’s lives and how it can change people for the better”.
Kids will understand the feelings of loneliness, shyness, being ignored, being over scheduled and feeling like a geek. They will see that everyone has a place and it’s about finding the right fit and being part of a team to achieve something really special.
For me, there were definite parallels to Matilda The Musical – the same empowerment of schoolchildren and the same ever-ready energy.
Dewey Finn is a rock music tragic. A lead guitarist in a band, he works at a record shop but he also lives the dream rock and roll lifestyle. He sleeps in until late, shirks responsibility and can’t pay the rent. This causes problems between his best friend Ned Schneebli (John O’Hara) and Ned’s girlfriend, Sally (Nadia Komacek).
He has also caused problems in the band – not turning up and letting them down has meant he has been kicked out of the band. On top of that, his lack of timing has also meant that he has been fired from the record shop.
Just as he’s about to be kicked out for not paying the rent, he intercepts a phone call for Ned from a local private school looking for a substitute teacher. Assuming Ned’s name and teaching qualifications, he shows up at the school (albeit late) and starts teaching his class of 10-year-olds.
At first, he is merely irritated by a room full of kids and sends them on constant recess, but once he discovers they have musical talents he starts to see the possibilities of forming a new band.
It’s the tried and true musical formula of let’s put on a show (with its own special flavour for the ‘show’). Dewey is childish and childlike and sees possibilities in life and for the kids. The kids see the possibilities that their new band roles provide them and together they teach the adults a lesson about children, life, hopes and dreams.
The musical is based on the book by one of my favourite English writers, Julian Fellowes, who must have penned it during one of his breaks in the Downton Abbey series. It’s witty and appropriately tailored for Australian humour.
It was lovely to see a cast with children from diverse cultural backgrounds – it’s a great way of showing that kids like them can do anything too.
The multi-talented Amy Lehpamer (most recently seen as Cynthia Weil in Beautiful) plays Rosalie Mullins, the Stevie Nicks loving school principal.
Two 10-year-olds who attended the show’s premiere with me were inspired by the musical, which encouraged them to discuss their upcoming performances and experiences of being onstage at school, and one was very keen to purchase drum sticks as soon as the show finished. To engage boys with a musical, especially with the dual messages of acceptance and empowerment is quite a feat and perhaps this is this show’s true mark of success.
Feature image: School of Rock The Musical. Photographed by Matthew Murphy. Image supplied