School of Rock: The Musical, Grand Opera House, Belfast, November 9th, 2021

By Conor O’Neill

“Let us pray, bow your heads, ‘God of rock, thank you for the chance to kick ass. We are your humble servants, but can you please grant us the strength to blow their freaking minds? Amen!'”

Welcome to the world of Dewey Finn, fulltime-time slave to the God of Rock and currently in a pickle, both financially and creatively. He’s been kicked out of his band No Vacancy and his best buddy Ned is pushing him from unpaid rent arrears.

But no true God would dare leave his most devout follower without a chance of redemption.

Dewey’s just happens to be a nefarious posting at one of the state’s finest schools, Horace Green. The school, run by headmistress Miss Mullins, has high standards, picky parents paying 50,000 dollars a year to educate their little darlings, and most definitely a mile above Dewey’s station in life.

Based on the 2003 movie by Mike White, the musical based on the book by Julian Fellows, is in the hands of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and lyricist Glenn Slater. With musical and writing credentials like that, and fresh from a fantastically received West End run, you probably know where this is going!

Surprisingly, the Grand Opera House is only three quarters full tonight; not happy news for those crunching the numbers at the box office, or for Mr Webber and co. but it is fantastic for you readers and anyone you wish to tell who loves their musical theatre and the sound of a Les Paul played through a Marshall stack.

An hour late on his first day, a hungover Dewey does not make a good first impression with Miss Mullens.

And the privileged children don’t impress him much either. But at $950 per week our meatball sub with extra cheese and extra marinara loving protagonist carries on. It would be rude not to.

With absolute no teaching qualifications to speak of, and a ne’er-do-well approach to life, Dewey decides every hour he’s in the school should be recess. That’s until he hears his class play in the orchestra. Now we’re talking!

12 kids, all of them fab actors for their age, and those who are musicians are top of the class. Not just playing live on this run, but just pure brilliant as musicians. For such a big production the set changes, costume changes and general feel of the show are quite minimal and understated. The main features are Dewey’s bedroom, Ned and his uptight girlfriend’s lounge, the class room, staffroom and most importantly the stage.

For all these kids privilege and parents’ cash, they’re not quite rounded. Dewey Finn sees through such insecurities and soon belief and mutual respect filters through the class, and Dewey.

One problem, we’re talking here about a man who believes Einstein’s greatest gift to the world is E = M C times 2. He neither gets on with the rest of the staff or the stoic Miss Mullins. The curriculum is abandoned, homework is the complete works of Jimi Hendrix. To the nerdy kid with self image problems, our failed wanna-be rock star promises him, “You’ll be so cool you’ll be a walking popsicle!”

Let’s not get away from the fact that this is a musical. From No Vacancy’s I’m Too Hot For Me to You’re In The Band and my personal favourite Stick It To The Man. Yet there are more personal little tunes here, not just for those about to rock.

Little shy girl Tomika’s a capella of Amazing Grace and Miss Mullin’s Where Did The Rock Go? The two hours 10 minutes fly by. Every minute filled with either brilliant music or little nuances of well written script.

Those familiar with the movie will know there are a few twists and turns to the tale. Not brow-furrowing first class degree with honours philosophy type of material, but a good story well told.

I dare you to YouTube the title track School of Rock and not feel compelled to go watch this little gem of West End magic.

School Of Rock The Musical runs at the Grand Opera House up to and including Saturday November 13 with matinees on the Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm.

For booking info visit http://www.goh.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890 241919

ENDS

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