REVIEW: School of Rock (Gillian Lynne Theatre)

Mummy is so late in publishing this review that she makes Dewey Finn look like the model of punctuality. Not wanting to come across as a teacher’s pet (even though that is precisely who Mummy was at school), she didn’t immediately rush to write up her thoughts after seeing School of Rock last month. But with the news of an impending cast change, she thinks now is the perfect time to finish that particular piece of homework.

What could be worse than school on a Sunday? If you need to ask this question you are either not a parent or you are an infuriating yummy mummy who spends Sundays making precious memories in your immaculate home, wishing that the weekend would go on forever. Mummy is neither of the above. Mummy is the sort of parent who meticulously plans her weekends to limit the time spent in the house meditating disputes between the munchkins. A completely free day inevitably ends up in a Mummy meltdown and everyone counting down the hours until school starts again. School of Rock is one of those rare West End shows that offers a Sunday matinee. So when she saw a TodayTix sale, Mummy snapped up tickets and dragged the family off to Sunday school.

Mummy and Mrs Mummy first saw School of Rock on Broadway a few years ago, back when they were the sort of childless people who were happy to spend hours sitting on freezing theatre steps in a quest for bargain tickets. Now on a mission to provide their own small humans with a well rounded education in musical theatre, it was inevitable that they would eventually find themselves back at School of Rock. For anyone unfamiliar with the show, it is based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black as a wannabe rock-star who masquerades as a private school teacher and ends up taking his class to Battle of the Bands. If you like the film, you will most likely enjoy the stage show. On the flip side don’t go in expecting big surprises as it’s pretty much a carbon copy of the film but with the addition of an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber (reason enough to see the stage show in Mummy’s book).

The other obvious difference between the film and the stage show is that everything is live. And that’s what makes it so impressive. Sitting a few rows from the front, it was impossible not to be in awe of the energy that Craig Gallivan puts into his portrayal as Dewey Finn. And to wonder how he manages to do the same 8 times a week. Laura Tebbutt is also a perfect Rosalie Mullins, effortlessly switching between square schoolteacher singing classical soprano and off-duty teacher belting to Stevie Nicks at a dive bar. (Mummy is now desperate to take the munchkins’ lovely but rather uptight headteacher out for a few beers at a karaoke bar.) But the real stars of the show are the talented troupe of children who not only sing and dance, but also play instruments live on stage. Every one of them put in an epic performance, and totally deserved their standing ovation. Even a little girl throwing up in the row in front of us just before the finale couldn’t put them off as they climbed to the top of Mount Rock.

The finale is treated as a rock concert, with pictures and videos encouraged. Mummy is honestly too much of a teacher’s pet to take photos at the theatre!

Mummy was interested to see whether being a parent affected her perceptions of the storyline. Would she now cringe at the message that children should listen to rock music instead of focusing on their schoolwork? Would she feel less comfortable about the central character fraudulently making his way into a classroom and kidnapping an entire class in order to fulfill his own musical ambitions? Not in the slightest. Because if you suspend your disbelief over Dewey’s ability to get himself into a classroom in the first place, at the heart of School of Rock are messages about the educational value of the arts and the importance of having a teacher who cares Meanwhile, for the parents, there is a valuable lesson to be learned from the deeply moving ‘If only you would listen’.

The munchkins loved it and skipped home in their newly acquired T-shirts, singing ‘Stick it to the Man‘. All in all, a successful Sunday. And for that, Mummy has filled in the School of Rock report card with a rating of Raindrops, Whiskers, Kettles and Mittens (aka 4 out of 5 of my favourite things).

School of Rock is playing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. For more information see the official website.