REVIEW | School Of Rock - Not Just Another Musical

School Of Rock

This year I made a vow that I’d get out of the house and do far more than meet pals for drinks or drinks-n-dinner. I crave live music and art and culture and the lasting memories that come from attending actual events, concerts, and musicals. With mask regulations no longer mandatory in Ireland, there were no more excuses. At the end of the day, watching a play smothered in a mask just plain ruins the experience.

I had no idea about what to see, so I started with Ticketmaster hoping to find something exciting and was thrilled when I found tickets for School Of Rock. It was a mainstay of my youth - and I’m sure yours. Whenever a teacher was out sick, in wheeled the telly and we watched School of Rock. I didn’t know that School Of Rock is now a musical. I took this as a sign that I should catch it live and see if it lives up to the movie.

The film captures a unique student-teacher relationship. One that isn’t all about “this is what we’re learning today” or “open to page 135 and start reading - four 40 hours.” In School Of Rock, there’s a bond between teacher and students where both parties are equal and actually learn from each other. And within the student-teacher dynamic, there’s an ode to classic rock that makes every child want to be a rockstar. It inspired all kinds of kids to dream of strumming the guitar, or - in my case - bringing the house down with my drumkit.

Plans for re-watching the movie before paying for tickets went out the window when I read that Jack Black himself said to that Andrew Loyd Webber’s Production is “surreal…I had lots of déjà vu and powerful moments of pride to be part of something that’s transformed into this incredible Broadway masterpiece" my mind was made up.

Kids performing in musicals - and movies - can be phenomenal but sometimes…let’s just say they require more training, talent, and craft. But then again, I’ve never acted on stage, so who am I to judge?

When I took my seat in Dublin’s state-of-the-art Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, I crossed my fingers, hoping for a fabulous show. From the very first note I was sure that I was, “When I climb to the top of mount rock.” Andrew Llyod Webber and Glenn Slater have a natural talent for lyrics and music. Their songs perfectly match Julian Fellowes’ lively dialogue and story.

Dewey Finn - played by Tom Hext - is completely self-centered in his desire to win the Battle of the Bands and return to the stage at all costs. However, he manages to evolve into a teacher who listens to his students and helps them gain confidence. The musical follows the same plot as the movie except for the musical numbers. While the film is all about the kids displaying their natural talents and jamming to rock music in class, the musical features 14 original compositions that follow the movie’s storyline to a tee.

“Rock n’ Roll isn’t about getting an A.” ~Freddy

Catchy songs like “Stick it to the Man,” “You're in the Band,” and “The School Of Rock” were positively electric. They made us want to sing and dance along, while Tomika’s “Amazing Grace” and Rosalie’s - Rebecca Locke - “Where Did the Rock Go” left us with chills.

From kids dealing with controlling parents to ones struggling to find themselves, the musical grows in the most magnificent way. Each of the roles have fulfilling story arcs that feel true to the character. School Of Rock was a smash hit in 2015, so by the point I saw it it’s a well-oiled machine. But with theater, the story is just as important as the sets, the lighting, and costumes - essentially the stagecraft. I will admit that the scene changes took too long. And there was a 5-minute hiccup in the production for technical difficulties. Bonus: it gave me a chance to use the bathroom avoiding the rush at intervals.

The sets absolutely embody Horace Green High School - exactly how we’d imagine a rich school in America. Actor Tom Hext matches Jack Black’s charismatic approach in the film, while retaining Tom’s individuality to make it memorable.

The performers’ incredible musical talents knocked me out. Actors play their own instruments! Katie (Daisy Hanna) was fire on the bass, Freddy (Issac Forward) and Lawrence (David Gluhovsky) on the drums and keyboard. And lead guitarist Zack (Harry Churchill) took my breath away. He has some skills!

Seeing the kids headbanging and hair-flipping made for some show and the audience reaction was hilarious. I wanted to leap onstage and join them. After the final curtain, kids were jumping down the stairs outside the theater, strumming invisible guitars and practicing their rock god stances.

For my first theater show in a while, it was spectacular. The whole atmosphere - from pre-theatre pints to simply raving about the production. What a night to remember. After all, “Rock n’ Roll isn’t about getting an A.” ~Freddy

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