SCHOOL OF ROCK is a rock musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes, based on the 2003 musical comedy film released by Paramount and starring Jack Black and Joan Cusack.
This week we went to see the excellent production of the musical by The Performing and Visual Arts Faculty at the Magna Carta School, at Thorpe Road Staines, directed by Danny Gwynne, with Helen Claringbull’s musical direction and choreography by Riannon Stygal.
The musical follows the adventures of Dewey Finn, a jobless rock singer and guitarist who claims to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious high school.
After identifying the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-grade students, in an attempt to win the next Battle of the Bands contest and “stick it” to his ex bandmates.
The musical at Magna Carta began with a hilarious performance by the band “No Vacancy” who are about to shelve their guitarist, Dewey, because he keeps upstaging the lead singer.
After the show we first meet Ned Schneebly, and his dominant wife/girlfriend Patty Di Marco at their pad. This is where Dewey crashes, rent-free. Patty wants Dewey out, but he receives a call from the private school at Horace Green who wants to hire Ned as a substitute teacher (“a temp?”) and Dewey sees there is a possibility of making some bucks (to pay his dues) so he plans to impersonate his friend and take “the gig.”
At Horace Green we first meet with the slightly testy Rosalie Mullins.
She sings the school anthem “Here at Horace Green” and we find she’s fussy about behaviour, competitiveness and quality.
In comes the disreputable Dewey character (pretending to be Mr. Schneebly) “Just call me Mister S...” He is not only doubtful but also lazy. “Got anything to eat?” he asks one kid. “Got any money? Go to Subway and get me something,” he yells.
Soon after this, though, he hears the kids playing in the school orchestra, and their relationship develops: the deficient teacher and the too-good-to-be-true, goodie-two-shoed, teacher’s-pets. He gets them to “Stick it to the Man” (Miss Mullins is the man… Donald Trump is the man...”) and they teach him determination and resilience.
One of the best scenes in the Magna Carta production was when Dewey discovers that Miss Mullins is a secret fan of Stevie Nicks and takes her to a coffee shop where she confesses (over beer) that she is a nightmare… and that’s why nobody likes her. This scene gives us the first inkling there’s electricity between them. A frisson that came over well in this great show.
Poppy Williams who played Tomika (vocals) was the definition of proficiency. Her soul-filled voice filled the auditorium and was worth waiting for.
Lanky Alistair Scott (Zack, the guitarist) was also perfect on the night, uptight, tense & nervy, that is until he “stuck it to the man” (in this case, his Dad) and liberated himself through rock music. A great performance.
Amy Young (Katie on bass) was perhaps not so studiously inclined as her character in the movie, the Magna Carta version of the character was zesty and more polished. We liked this version a lot…
Daisy Lee and Sali Adams (Shonelle and Marcy) were exemplary, as was Umar Aunghareeta (playing Lawrence on keys) and Sammy Austin (playing Freddie on drums.) But perhaps more could have been done with Dylan Oak’s character (Billy the stylist) and Ella Clark (Summer, the manager.) Both were great actors but their roles were underutilized (in our opinion) — but these are minor quibbles.
Great acclaim should go to the children who played the parts of the parents of students.
Each one played a superior and memorable cameo role.
And the ensemble and the orchestra was just fantabulisticcal!
Of course, the stand-out performance of the night was from Dewey Finn, played by Sebastian Hobden. He owned the stage — left, right and centre — our only comment being: “I wish he’d calm down and settle.” Jack Black was unflustered in this role, a calm influence on the kids and his half-asleep attitude and laid-back kinda style was commanding. But Sebastian opted to interpret the character entirely differently — as a spring-heeled cat on a hot-tin roof, with uncontrolled levels of untapped ever-fermenting energy. At times we just wanted him to be tackled to the ground by the crew. God love him! You couldn’t fault his earnestness.
The most notable performance was that of Katie Mack, who played Miss Mullins. She didn’t put a foot nor finger wrong. She sang with controlled emotion, spoke with excellent articulation and gave a very credible portrayal of the dispassionate and distant school principal who has an (invisible) heart of the liquid honey.
Big thanks must also go to the TMCS PVA Faculty, the entire production team (especially Lily Warnes for her excellent stage management) and the hairdressing and makeup teams, as well as everyone who made this show such a magical success.
Words: @neilmach 2018 ©