Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock arrived at the New London Theatre to an average 4.3 stars from critics. Libby Purves (TheatreCat) described “a lovely fantasy… a heartfelt plea for freedom, creativity and musicality”. Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) felt the musical “improved on this vaguely preposterous but resonant fairytale” and saw it land “with an almighty kerrang of confidence”, detecting “the same magic” that made it a Broadway hit.
He found Julian Fellowes’s book “cleaves closely to the celluloid storyline” but with “valuable… fine-tuning” so that it now “powers along at an energetic, adrenal lick”. Henry Hitchings (ES) found it “warmly amusing” and Purves “witty”. While Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) found some scenarios “corny” he enjoyed its “delicious” teasing of “uptight parents”.
Purves, hailing a “fresh British cast” judged David Fynn as Dewey “a find” enjoying an “enchanting evocation of a slobbish enthusiast… abashed and cunning, reckless and feckless and rock ’n roll” so that “Your whole heart, willing or not, goes out to him”. Hitchings, admitting “He may not have an outstanding voice,” praised “irrepressible energy” and Cavendish thought him “terrific… chaotic-charismatic,” adding, “Everyone plays their part to perfection”.
Purves noted that Lloyd-Webber and Glenn Slater’s songs are “entirely new” with some “good musical jokes” and found them “more satisfyingly woven into the developing story” than the “rock standards” used in the film. Cavendish described “an album’s worth… busting with rare freshness and vitality”. Hitchings enjoyed the “knowing cleverness” of Slater’s lyrics and a score, “buoyant and bassy, with moments of guitar-shredding frenzy and a keen ear for pastiche”.
While he thought early scenes “a little flat”, he found Laurence Connor’s production “roars into life the moment the students start to fall under Dewey’s spell”. Cavendish found “What was funny becomes doubly so” and praised “tightly drilled, pencil-sharp choreography”.
Purves described “a rabble of underage whoopers, ten-year-old guitarists and mini rock-gods… the wildest bunch of swirling, stamping, joyful muppets on a London stage since Matilda.” She detected “serious” musical “talent” and found their characterisation “neat and good-humoured”. Hitchings saw the young cast “radiating feisty attitude without appearing obnoxious” and Letts enjoyed “their sheer delight in rocking”.
He found the show “ear-splitting and rib-tickling… terrific fun”. Hitchings described a “fresh and charming… loud and cheeky… big-hearted, family-friendly show” enjoying its “anarchic wildness” and “exuberant silliness”. Purves found it “irresistible, feel-very-good-indeed… light, joyful, touching, youthful and musically inventive… Lovely, altogether,” predicting “a stonking hit”.
Currently booking to 12 Feb 2017, with tickets available from StageScan. We also have tickets for other shows in our StageScan Top Ten, including bittersweet farce Dead Funny, and full-on feelgood fun musicals Half a Sixpence and Showstopper! And we’ve just secured tickets for some exciting new plays including the Park theatre’s new season.
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