"Webber’s most exuberant show in years"
-The Guardian-

"Ridiculously entertaining"
-The Independent-

"Fresh and charming"
-The Evening Standard-

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One of the most exciting musicals to hit the West End this year

Critic Rating

16 November 2016, Gillian Lynne Theatre
Shaun Millis Shaun Millis
Thirteen years after the original film made its debut, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical version of School of Rock has arrived on the West End stage at the New London Theatre.

The film that it was based upon has become somewhat of a cult classic over recent years. Jack Black’s portrayal of a failed rock star sponger who fakes his way into a substitute teacher job and spends his time imparting his love of rock to the pupils, generally has a universal appeal. It is hard to see Black’s character of Dewey Finn jumping onto tables and screaming AC/DC lyrics at children with no pretence of restraint without finding him incredibly endearing.

David Fynn has some big boots to fill taking Jack Black’s iconic role, and he manages to do a pretty good job. Known for his role in American TV comedy Undateable Fynn is an obvious choice, with not too dissimilar mannerisms or look. However, with the production being very firmly based on the film, it is hard not to think of him as playing Jack Black, playing Dewey Finn.

It is not that Jack Black is necessarily one of the best Hollywood actors of our generation. In fact, he is probably one of the least versatile, with every notable role he’s taken seeming to be merely an extension of his own personality. However, for School of Rock this works perfectly.

We want someone who is naturally bursting with enthusiasm, naturally hilarious and above all believes rock music is the most important thing in the world. Although Fynn does a very good job at this, it does slightly lack Black’s magic.

The young cast are truly spectacular however. Before the show begins, Andrew Lloyd Webber delivers a voice over reassuring us that all the children are indeed playing their instruments live. These guitars and basses are often as big as the kids themselves, but they throw themselves into pitch perfect performances fervently stomping and sliding up and down the stage with the skill and energy of the greats.

If there’s one thing missing it is the lack of development of the individual characters and their relationships, seemingly going through transformative changes in the matter of seconds.

The kids only want to know classic music, but in the space of a few minutes are fully converted to rock stars. The principle is an uptight and rigid leader of a prestigious school, but in one short scene with Dewey learns to let her hair down. The parents want their children to work and think music is a waste of time, but as soon as they see them play they’re fully supportive of the band.

Obviously, there is a need to suspend your disbelief in the world of musicals (after all, people don’t just burst into perfectly choreographed routines all the time), however sacrificing some of the band performances for more steadily paced character development may have made School of Rock: The Musical a bit more emotionally resonate.

That said, School of Rock still oozes energy and joy, making it one of the most exciting musicals to hit the West End this year and well worth a watch.

Reviewed by Shaun Millis

Michael Billington
Even if there is a side of me that questions the premise that classical music is for stiffs, this is Lloyd Webber’s most exuberant show in years and, at a time of general gloom, is dedicated to the great cause of cheering us all up.
Paul Taylor
This show never lets you forget this winning absurdity. The piece was developed and premiered in New York where the less stringent child labour laws allowed Lloyd Webber to use one cast plus understudies.
Henry Hitchings
Andrew Lloyd Webber has a hit on his hands. Those are words that have been said before, many times. But this fresh and charming musical, which premiered on Broadway a year ago, is very different from his recent work. Based on Richard Linklater’s 2003 film, it’s loud and cheeky, a feelgood experience with a hint of anarchic wildness.
What is so attractive about the show is the way its moral - that by taking up rock, the kids are liberated to find their own voice and communicate their hopes and dreams - is replicated by the action taking place on stage. As a small boy starts to strum an oversized guitar, and make a massive noise, or a silent girl discovers she is a great singer, the child performers themselves blossom in front of your eyes.
Mark Shenton
Lloyd Webber goes back to his rock roots and produces his freshest musical in years
Quentin Letts
Time to rename Andrew Lloyd Webber ... Lord Meat Loaf! The veteran composer’s latest show, just imported from America, is a rooty-tooty, rock-pumpin’ effort with not a single, warbling ballad to be found.
Dominic Cavendish
At the performance I caught, lanky Oscar Francisco as keyboard-whiz Lawrence, Toby Lee, impressive on electric guitar as Zack, and Amma Ris, with a roof-raising rendition of Amazing Grace as the shy Tomika, made you feel weirdly like the proudest parent. The most enjoyable few hours money can buy.