Review: High-energy School of Rock is the perfect family show

Staffordshire-born West End star Jake Sharp hit the ground running last night in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s smash hit musical, School of Rock at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre!

Jake Sharp from Lichfield
Jake Sharp from Lichfield

Completely different to all his other works, it is hard to believe that School of Rock is a Lloyd-Webber creation. Phantom of the Opera step aside; this is the much more playful side of “The Lord” which is quite refreshing to see, and let’s face it, rock music and kids has to be a winning combination, doesn’t it?

The plot and the gags are a little cliché, but then so what? It’s fun, high-energy entertainment.

Dewey Finn, wastrel, and a wannabe rock legend has been kicked out of his band for his slovenly ways. When he needs to pay his bills or risk losing his home, he assumes the identify of his flatmate and takes a job as a substitute teacher at a private school, where the pupils only play classical music. Then, desperate to display his own talents and feed his need to crowd surf, Dewy transforms his class into rock gods, culminating in a “Battle of the Bands” competition, all whilst falling in love with their uptight head teacher.

Obviously, it is tempting to make comparisons to Jack Black in the 2003 movie version, and it is important to retain an element of that character in order to make a successful journey from screen to stage, but Jake Sharp makes Dewey his very own, without disappointing fans.

To play this role successfully needs total inhibition, outstanding vocals and comedic timing, all of which Jake Sharp has in abundance. Add to that his ability to play live guitar on stage whilst surrounded by twelve uber-talented youngsters with boundless energy and appeal and you have the perfect Dewey Finn.

Working in teams throughout the tour, the children really steal the show and it is almost impossible to pick anyone out of such an extraordinary line up. Almost, but a special mention must go to Souparnika Nair as Tomika, whose angelic voice brought a tear to the eye in act two and Florrie May Wilkinson as Summer, whose confident performance will definitely see her on the West End stage in adult roles one day.

Harveen Mann from Wolverhampton

Rebecca Lock as Rosalie Mullins gave the vocal performance of the night with her pure, top soprano voice, but then switched with ease to join Jake and the youngsters in rocking out in the finale.

The “Grown Up Band” under the supervision of Michael Riley, raised the roof with Lloyd-Webber’s score, whilst Anna Louizos’s scenery is effective and seamless and is perfectly complimented by a superb lighting plot courtesy of Stuart Porter.

Together these elements create a rock arena feel which means an audience simply cannot resist getting up on their feet and rocking out.

Emerson Arron Sutton, 13, from Wordsley, and Joseph Sheppard, 12, from Dudley, also star in School of Rock

The whole creative team for the show should be applauded for taking School of Rock on tour at such a challenging time, but particular praise must go to Associate Director, Chris Key who despite the obvious restrictions the pandemic has created, has managed to oversee no less than 42 children whilst keeping them engaged and honing their skills. Now that’s talent!

In conclusion, School of Rock is the perfect show for all the family and will delight grandparents who were rock gods in the 1970’s, parents who took up the mantle in the 1990’s and children today who just love the excitement and energy rock music brings.

It runs at the Grand Theatre until Saturday. Visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk, or call 01902 429212 for tickets.

School of Rock will head to the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham from January 31 until February 5 next year.

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