Thursday, July 7

School of Rock – Palace Theatre Manchester

Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most famous composers when it comes to the world of musicals but what some may not realise is that as well as his classics such as ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Evita’, ‘Cats’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’ written in the 70s & 80s, he more recently wrote ‘School of Rock’ which premiered on Broadway in 2015. To kick off this new year of 2022, this smash hit musical has come to the Palace Theatre to rock the socks off this Manchester audience!

Based on 2003 film, this musical follows the story of Dewey Finn (Alex Tomkins) who is desperate to make it big in a mighty rock band. Dewey takes an opportunity to make some money as a substitute schoolteacher, posing as his best friend, Ned Schneebly (Matthew Rowland). When he meets the kids of Horace Green Primary School, he comes up with a cunning plan to finally make it to the Battle of the Bands!

The audience need a little bit of time to settle into the opening scenes which are mainly dominated by Dewey, Ned and Patty (Nadia Violet Johnson). The American twangs are unmistakable with the script playing on this by throwing in lots of typical vocabulary and phrases too – yeah dude! It is not until the kids of Horace Green have the opportunity to shine during the big number ‘You’re in the band’ that I truly felt the energy lift. There are twelve characters in the children’s cast and looking at the programme, there are three or four sets of children who play these roles. The twelve we saw tonight were remarkable every moment they spent on stage, and I can only assume that all forty-two of these young students can perform to the same high standard. These young actors were absolutely outstanding in every way, with their performance infectious and endearing throughout. They not only sing, dance and act but they also play live instruments all evening, as well as manage complex set changes, harmonies and everything in between! Their talent knows no limits and the liveliness they create is so unique, an adult cast could only dream of creating such energy. These are exceptional young performers performing exceptionally. There really is one true highlight in this show – the kids!

In saying that, the whole cast are a talented bunch, with Rebecca Lock who played Rosalie Mullins making a huge impression as we see her character evolve throughout the show. There is good variety within the songs, with Tomika & Rosalie sharing some beautiful slow and sensitive numbers in the second half and of course the big tunes such as ‘School of Rock’ and ‘Stick it to The Man’ setting the audience alight at the end of the night!

‘School of Rock’ is very much a ‘feel-good’ show with a sweet story that does tug on the heart strings. Everyone left with a smile on their faces and a great pride for the children of Horace Green! This show appeals to a wide audience for its likable nature and catchy tones. It’s wonderful to see the bright future of musical theatre with the endless talent coming through in the young performers.

‘School of Rock’ continues at The Palace Theatre, Manchester until the 15th of January 2022, for ticket information please visit https://uktour.schoolofrockthemusical.com/tour-dates/

Reviewer: Blathine Maguire

Reviewed: 4th January 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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