School of Rock at the Hawth Theater – review: Young actors simply amaze in a wonderful musical

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Dirty Dancing the Musical was awful (in my opinion), Ghost the Musical was “meh” at best and The Bodyguard was fine (having one of the biggest catalogs of artists in the world to work from always helps) – just three examples of when it doesn’t work so well.

But luckily, this week, the Hawth is hosting a production of a working example – and it just might be the best movie adaptation of the musical. School of Rock is just awesome.

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The original film is a staple in most family homes and you are rewarded with repeat viewings. And the musical version does the exact same thing. I’ve been lucky enough to go to School of Rock the Musical in the West End twice, so seeing it at the Hawth was my third time, and it seems to be getting better.

school of rock. Photo: Paul Coltas

What is the secret of its success? It’s the children. They are simply amazing. They play, they sing, they dance and they play instruments, all there, right in front of you.

They have such annoying talent that I remembered what Jason Manford said when welcoming the Oliviers after the School of Rock casting: “I’ve never been so disappointed in my own kids.”

Of course, I’m not one iota disappointed with my child, but see the show and you’ll understand what Manford means.

As soon as they are on stage, energy and talent ooze from them. There are too many to mention, but William Laborde as Zack (guitar), Angel Lucero as Tomika (what a voice), Oliver Pearce as Lawrence (keyboard assistant), Layla Pages as Summer, Emerson Sutton as Freddy (drums) and Ava Masters like Katie (bass) are all amazing.

But they couldn’t do it without their leader Dewey Finn. Jack Black performs his most memorable trick in the film version and it’s hard to imagine anyone else performing it. However, Jake Sharp puts so much physicality and energy into his portrayal that he makes the character proud. There are elements of Black’s performance in there, but it’s not an impression, just a wonderful performance. He and the kids are bouncing off each other and the chemistry between them is top class.

But he also clicks with Rebecca Lock playing the uptight Horace Green principal Rosalie Mullins, whom Dewey is slowly winning over.

Although the film has some great songs, there’s nothing obvious that says “this would make a great musical”, but Andrew Lloyd-Webber (music), Glenn Slater (lyrics) and Julian Fellowes (book) operate.

The show contains 14 original songs and they fit perfectly into the plot. When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock, Your’e In the Band, In the End of the Time, Stick it to the Man and School of Rock are all great but there are two songs that are the emotional heart of the show.

If You’ll Only Listen (and this is Reprise) overwhelms me every time I hear it – as a parent it resonates so much. And where did the rock go? – which was impeccably performed by Lock – is a beautiful song full of regret and hope.

I can’t say enough good things about School of Rock. It’s full of energy, brilliant music and unimaginable talent. If you have a ticket and just don’t feel like going, let me know because I would definitely see it again.

The Hawth was rocking on opening night, and I’m sure that will continue as the week progresses.

Runtime: 2 hours and 30 minutes (including intermission)

Age recommendation: 8+. Please note that School of Rock sometimes contains coarse language and may not be suitable for very young children. Please note that smoke effects and strobe lights are used during this performance.

Tickets: Monday to Thursday: £47.50 (reduced: £42.50). Groups of 10 or more: £40. Schools: £22.50.

Postponed from Monday January 17 to Saturday January 22, 2022, all tickets for the original dates are valid.

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