Monday, April 22

School of Rock – Sheffield Lyceum

Sheffield was raising the decibels into the stratosphere last night with the England Women’s Team winning the Semi Final against Sweden in the Euro22 competition at Sheffield Bramall Lane ground and the School of Rock opening at the Sheffield Lyceum, Sheffield really was the place to be! The city was euphoric – Sheffield Rocked!

School of Rock is written by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame with Lyrics by Glenn Slater, the dialogue is both topical and sassy and extremely funny on numerous occasions. The music by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber is as expected, catchy with some great songs such as Top of Mount Rock, Stick it to the Man and If Only you would listen. Anna Louizo’s sets are compact, yet well designed to move fluently and at speed between the Horace Green school rooms, Ned Schneebly’s house and the Battle of the Band Stage. Directed by Laurence Connor, with resident director Mark Hilton this production ebbs and flows beautifully building into a tidal wave of house rocking exuberance.

The production is based, nearly word for word, on the 2003 film of the same title starring Jack Black. The story basically follows Dewey Finn, a failed rock star who to make some money fast, slyly and fraudulently takes a job as a substitute teacher using his best friend’s name. Very quickly he finds he doesn’t fit in at all with either the staff or his students. His class is full of academics whom carry the weight of their teacher’s and parent’s expectations on their backs and are disciplined to follow the rules and only the rules. Whilst hearing a classical music lesson, Finn begins to find out that these kids are creatively talented and very individual yet suppressed and it is Dewey who recognises their amazing potential and begins to unlock it through the only thing he knows and is passionate about – rock music. Nurturing them to create their own rock band – The School of Rock, he enters them into the Battle of the Bands competition. Through rock music and working together the kids develop their own voice and Dewey joins them on their journey, by finding himself and a direction in life. The parents are eventually awakened to how wonderful their kids really are, without the unneeded pressure to conform and with their own ideas and preferences allowed to surface.

Photo: Paul Coltas

School of Rock is a feel good, powerhouse of a musical which has universal appeal, and this is highlighted by the diversity of the audience. From Grandparents to young children the whole theatre is mesmerised. I was sat next to the grand parents of one of the cast members and ‘by ‘eck’, were they rightly proud of their granddaughter! The show is packed with energy, comedy and more than a pinch of rebellion, it starts off slowly and by the end has the audience off the seats with its speed and energy. The production although full of sentimentality and sweetness is never reliant on it and never overdoes this, but instead packs a punch with its moral life lessons as we ask ourselves if we do listen to our children’s voice.

The kids, the undisputed stars of the show are quadruple threats – already, although they are pre-teens! The pure talent of these young children as they play their own instruments, sing, dance and act is awe inspiring and uplifting. Every single one of them onstage gives 100%, they are fore and central and deserve to be so. Amazing to witness… Wow!

The adult cast is led by Jake Sharp as Dewey Finn, with a hard act to follow in Jake Black, Sharp makes this role his own. His vitality and energy are infectious, from his strong vocals to his comic capers he makes you tired watching his knee sliding antics! Rebecca Lock (who previously played Charlotta in Phantom of the Opera) takes on the role of uptight, past rocker and present Head Mistress Rosalie Mullins. Lock breaks into Mozart’s Queen of the Night with sublime ease and then gives the performance of the night in the heart wrenching and awakening – Where Did the Rock Go?

Note: – Watch out for Matthew Rowland’s performance of the real Ned Scneebly in the final scenes, you are in for a surprise. No spoilers.

You will leave the theatre smiling from ear to ear – I promise. The finale is raucous, the audience are on their feet and the performers on stage deserved every moment of the rapturous applause! School of Rock is at the Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 30th July 2022. Go stick it to the Man or you’ll regret it!

Reviewer: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 26th July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★