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Andrew Lloyd Webber's School of Rock musical turns up the volume on opening night at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury


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School of Rock has always been one of my favourite films.

I put it on whenever I’m having a bad day, feeling unwell or just need a pick-me-up. It holds a very special place in my heart, which is why I’ve been so hesitant to see how Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage version holds up.

School of Rock brings a real-life rock concert to Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre. Picture: Paul Coltas
School of Rock brings a real-life rock concert to Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre. Picture: Paul Coltas

It turns out, I needn’t have waited so long.

There are plenty of references to satisfy film fans like myself, and some of Jack Black’s most quotable lines remain intact. However, there is a new lease of life injected into the story that truly brings it to life on the Canterbury stage.

The set, constantly switching from a prep school classroom to living rooms, a dive bar and even a sold-out rock concert, is seamless and impressive without being scene-stealing.

The cast of kids are a delight as they perform with leading man Jake Sharp. Picture: Paul Coltas
The cast of kids are a delight as they perform with leading man Jake Sharp. Picture: Paul Coltas

That job is left completely to the cast, led by Jake Sharp as Dewey Finn, whose ability to perform physical comedy that children enjoy while delivering one-liners that make the adults laugh out loud is perfect.

The class of kids - all of whom play their instruments live on stage every night - are funny and undeniably talented, but it's in the scenes where they jam with their substitute teacher that the entire ensemble really comes alive.

The soundtrack includes 14 new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater. Picture: Paul Coltas
The soundtrack includes 14 new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater. Picture: Paul Coltas

Some songs from the original soundtrack remain, such as the titular song and Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen - turned into an breathtaking moment by Rebecca Lock as Rosalie Mullins - but Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater penned 14 new songs for this show.

Thankfully, the new numbers pay off and every single one fits like a glove.

Stick It to the Man is so brilliantly catchy it’s almost annoying - I haven’t stopped singing it since - and You’re In the Band is both fun and heart-warming.

Even though the cast may not be budding rockstars in real life, it’s part of the show’s charm that you really believe these young characters are shaking off their stiff upbringing and finding themselves on the stage.

The cast all play their instruments live on stage - as if remembering their lines and choreography isn't enough! Picture: Paul Coltas
The cast all play their instruments live on stage - as if remembering their lines and choreography isn't enough! Picture: Paul Coltas

That’s the kind of freedom I always felt from the film as a child. As a kid who loved rock music and secretly wanted to be the next Joan Jett, I always felt such an affinity to the film’s characters.

And now, almost 20 years later, the show somehow manages to recreate that same feeling of relatability and familiarity.

I feared the musical wouldn’t stand up to the film that has always been something of a comfort blanket to me, but it filled me with the same joy that makes me come back to the film time and time again.

As such, I suspect this will not be the last time I enrol in the School of Rock.

The show is based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black, Joan Cusack and Miranda Cosgrove. Picture: Paul Coltas
The show is based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black, Joan Cusack and Miranda Cosgrove. Picture: Paul Coltas

School of Rock is at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, until Saturday, April 30. Book online here or call 01227 787 787.

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