School of Rock – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By @Steve Crabtree, October 2021
When I sat down to watch the School of Rock film for the first time back in 2003, I was in my mid-20s and thought that it might be one of those nice-to-watch kind of flicks. Since then, I’ve ended up watching it a lot over the years. Via DVD, online stream or just when it’s appeared on television. So much so, that it’s sneakily slid its way into my list of favourite films.
So, when I heard that the School of Rock musical had been written, with a score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, I knew that it was something I had to see. Tonight was its Bradford Alhambra launch night, but was it going to live up to this film I’d loved for so long?
“Tightly riffed out”
Taking our seats, we have a small rock stage set up in front of us before No Vacancy enters the stage and kicks things off. Guitarist Dewey Finn, the character made famous by Jack Black tries to take the limelight a bit too much here, leading to his downfall and getting himself thrown out of the band. This makes the loveable but incompetent douchebag sad, down and in debt to his friend and landlord Ned. So, after a little pressure from Ned and a lot of pressure from Ned’s feisty girlfriend, Dewey gets himself a job. But not just any job. And not really his job either.
School of Rock is set mainly in Horace Green Prep School. A very well-to-do school with high standards that warrant parents to spend $50,000 a year to send their child there. And it’s here where the production comes into its own. The backdrops, interchangeable sets and props are fantastic and really add some weight to what is already unfolding into a strong musical.
It’s also here where we get to know tonight’s cast of kids. And they are fantastic. The sass and snootiness of Summer is captured perfectly by Saffia Layla. And Marikit Awiwumi’s poutiful bass playing Kaite definitely rocks. The part of Zack is tightly riffed out by William Laborde. And out of all the incredible kids shining up on stage, it is Souparnika Nair who perhaps just comes out top of the class with her portrayal as shy girl Tomika. When she sings ‘Amazing Grace’, jaws drop. When she pipes up, no teacher (genuine or fake) needs to tell us to pay attention.
“Abundance of talent”
Everywhere you look, there is an abundance of talent. The kids in the audience love what the kids on stage can do; and we adults are in awe as well. They play their own instruments and hold their own in the choreography. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it always blows my mind how good some child actors can be. Bright futures for everyone on that stage tonight.
As you’d expect, the stage version of School Of Rock is packed with musical numbers. Rocky kind of stuff (not surprisingly) – but then you think back to the film and there wasn’t actually that much music in it. So, alongside the few classics, an array of new songs have been fused into the musical. And sometimes that doesn’t work (Sister Act, I’m looking at you!). But in School of Rock they work perfectly, with a few emotional ones in there too. And by bringing this story from the screen to the stage, it lets you sink a bit deeper into the kids’ minds, rather than just laugh away at the movie. You feel things a touch more – something I didn’t quite envisage happening before we came here tonight.
“A stellar job”
So the burning question I had in the lead up to tonight was this: How well will somebody play Dewey Finn when they’re not Jack Black? Black, in essence, IS School Of Rock. But spend a few minutes getting past the comparison stage, and Jake Sharp certainly makes the role his own. Quite emphatically too. His physical comedy is hilarious, and his timing and delivery spot on. He does a stellar job in being daft, funny, singing, and playing the waster of a man trying to make a rock band out of a group of kids that he’s fraudulently teaching.
He even introduces Bradford to regular bouts of belly humour. Perhaps more for the kids, but we grown-ups can’t contain our laughter either. The image of which, unfortunately, won’t be leaving my mind any time soon!
What a fantastic night. The entire audience was lapping School of Rock up. Any expectations I had were firmly met, and like the film, it’s certainly worth seeing time and again. And if you’re contemplating going to see it this week in Bradford, stick it to the man and buy a ticket.
School of Rock is at Bradford Alhambra until Saturday 30th October