Ian Waller and his 11 year old son enjoy an evening of rock fun
Come on, takes your seats everybody, class has started and today’s lesson is rock! It’s time to cast aside the maths and English in place of guitar riffs, drum solos, shrieking vocals and plenty of perfect posing, because the School of Rock is in session!
Yes, the stage version School of Rock – courtesy of a certain Mr Andrew Lloyd Webber – has hit the stage of The Bristol Hippodrome for four nights of musical fun. Based around that film with Jack Black, the plot sees a lazy, failing and work-shy wannabe rock musician somehow taking over the role of a teacher at the super post and frightfully proper Horace Green Prep. At the core is a fable of how all kids – and grown-ups too, for that matter – need to express themselves and not be controlled by the man, all to a backdrop of howling guitars, cliched rock and loads of fun.
This is a production with so many great performances, both of the acting and musical varieties, to produce a real feel good tale that will have you reaching for your air guitars and checking out your poses in the bathroom mirror. At the centre of the proceedings in Jake Sharp at Dewey Finn, full of energy and rock and roll fantasies, whose dreams of music stardom are given a second, unexpected chance when he realises this class of stuck-up private school dweebs have the making of a great band.
What follows might be every rock cliche known to humankind, but thanks for the excellent performances, it works really well. Finn is the sort of guy you desperately don’t want as a friend, but Jake Sharp is just great at bringing a childish fun to the role, uncovering the genuine caring, passionate person that he is, albeit with an outer image of bad behaviour and dodgy personal hygiene. There’s an incredible energy to this performance that is certainly to be admired, as his inner child sees Finn rocking out and dancing around with his young charges, and slowly – of course – winning their love and respect.
Talking of those your charges, it’s the amazing younger actors that really shine. The younger members of the cast are astounding good, playing their parts with skill and excellent comedy timing and yes, they really do all play their instruments live!
While you will know a few of songs from the film, there are plenty of new ones added to this stage adaptation, although for me this was really the weak spot of the show. Some of these new songs just failed to hit the right notes, somehow not memorable or catchy enough, and it was really difficult to hear the lines and appreciate what was being sung about. Similarly, just a few times across the show, poor enunciation meant that I couldn’t quite follow the conversations.
However, this an old-school evening of fun, with plenty of laughs and some great music performed superbly by an excellent cast. When I asked my 11 year old son what he thought of it, it was a big thumbs up with the comment, “My hands hurt from clapping so much.” Across the packed theatre, the good time feelings appeared to be happily shared, with the audience all up on their feet for the dance-along finale.
School Of Rock plays at The Bristol Hippodrome until 14 May. For more information and tickets, click here.