It’s hard to believe that the whimsical Jack Black movie School of Rock is already 15 years old, but its age isn’t keeping it from entertaining people today. It reached an even higher level of success in 2015 when, spearheaded by Andrew Lloyd Webber, it was converted into a musical of the same name. Now showing in London’s West End at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, this is a fun romp through the story of a failed rock and roll star. The production is not without its shortcomings, but it is an overall pleasant experience for fans of musical theatre.
Actor Craig Gallivan takes on the role of Dewey Finn, played by Jack Black in the original film. Dewey is a down on his luck musician that hatches an ill-advised plan to pose as a substitute teacher in order to make some extra cash. In doing so, he pushes his rock and roll influence on the children, opening their eyes to the world of music and leading them to a battle of bands. In essence, it is the story of a man living his childhood dream through actual children.
Gallivan’s Dewey is a stark contrast to Jack Black’s portrayal. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does take some getting used to for those who have seen the movie. In addition to the obvious physical differences, Gallivan is a bit more reserved in his mannerisms and clear in his speech. However, he still exhibits the general passion for music and concern for the children as Dewey showed in the movie. There are plenty of heartwarming moments to smile at, and the jokes are well-received throughout the performance.
The children in the show are surprisingly professional and musically inclined. The true success of the show is in the music, which is no surprise considering that Andrew Lloyd Webber is behind it. The songs are fun, with many returning from the original film and a few new ones released specifically for this production. Fans of rock and roll will be getting their money’s worth based on the music alone in School of Rock.
Without the music, however, this would probably just be a mediocre performance. There isn’t much to set it apart from the movie, and with times changing and culture-shifting, the script and theme could probably use a bit of an update. At times it just feels stale and outplayed. Fortunately, these stretches aren’t too long, and another impressive musical performance will pull you out of it before you become too disenfranchised.
School of Rock succeeds as an imaginative rock and roll concert with a few minutes of humorous banter sprinkled throughout the performance. It doesn’t quite hold up as a well-rounded, theatrical production, but it is still well worth it to see the performances of the cast as rock and roll classics and new original songs are played with talent and passion throughout the night.