REVIEW: Pay Attention Class – It's Time for the School of Rock
| By Kay Johal
As soon as Andrew Lloyd Webber's dulcet tones floated over the speakers at the New London Theatre, assuring us that all the children do indeed play the instruments, I knew I was in for a good time. Having not seen the film, I was equally curious as to what has made this show the resounding success it is. It was time to set my preconceptions aside (was I going to get a headache from out of tune drums being banged?) and settle down for an astoundingly good night.
School of Rock originated as a film and had the stellar Jack Black in the role of Dewey Finn. On the night I attended the alternate Dewey was on, Gary Trainor, who excelled in the part. His accent was clear and fluid and he had key mannerisms down pat. It must be hard, I would imagine, to interact with a cast of children and Gary seemed to have a fairly strong handle on it, encouraging when required et al. Applause for that, at the very least, must be given. Florence Andrews' pitch and tone were sublime, demonstrating control and being able to rock out in equal measure. Preeya Kalidas and Oliver Jackson worked well together; there wasn’t much meat to their bones, but what was there was thoroughly and professionally fleshed out.
The children, of course, are the dominating force throughout the show. Preconceived notions that the cast may be precocious were very quickly pushed aside. I cannot emphasise how well this piece is put together. The songs are challenging for anyone, and Amazing Grace by the young Tomika must be mentioned. A point of note was how well rounded this cast was, particularly the children, covering all ethnicities and backgrounds. Hearty congratulations to Eliza Cowdery, Toby Lee and Agatha Meehan. Stick it to the Man was my favourite song of the night.
My companion for the evening was a young adult who has autism. I was interested to see how she would relate to the show; would it be something she could relate to, the pressure of a structured school life and not being able to express creativity, or indeed that creativity being stifled. She has quite a short attention span and difficulty engaging for long periods of time. My companion was thoroughly enchanted with the show and pleased that its resounding statement is that even from a very young age, if you know there is something inside of you that is bursting to get out, nurture it, love it and go and rock your world, alongside rocking your school.