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School of Rock - IDOLS Review

Reviewed by Bliss Warland-Edge
Disclaimer: ticket was gifted in return for an honest review

This warm October just got flaming hot, with the rock and roll fire from the IDOLS 2023 production of School of Rock at the Little Theatre. A high-energy, fun adaptation of a cult classic directed by Sam White (IDOLS productions Oliver and Annie), thriving with humour and sparkling musical talent- these kids will be ones to watch. 

Photo by Poyner and Mee Photography

Mitchell Smith explodes onto the stage with an incredibly uncanny imitation of Jack Black in the character of Dewey Finn, and an equally impressive American accent that makes the audience question his lineage. As he warbles in our opening cover of “I’m Too Hot for You”, we are introduced to some wonderfully ridiculous costume designs by a wardrobe team headed by Kayleigh Cook and Sarah Phillips, in the form of Dewey’s shiny leather-clad band named No Vacancy.

Soon after, we fast-forward to modern day and a bespectacled Ben Cusack trundles on stage as submissive Ned Schneebly, with a remarkable Brooklyn accent that overshadows the entrance of his domineering girlfriend Patty (Lucy Edwards), setting the scene of a shared flat between Dewey and the couple. As the story goes, the audience witnesses Dewey lose his job and receive clear threats of being turfed out by Patty and Ned, however, in the nick of time, Dewey takes a call froPrincipal Mullins (Natasha Carrfrom Horace Green Prep School offering his roommate Ned a temporary teaching role at their school, and seeing the opportunity, Dewey takes on Ned’s identity to access the job. Cue a harmonious ensemble of the prep school staff and students delivering a melodic “Here at Horace Green” with soprano moments from Carr, however, it is the children who are in fact the most notable during this song, demonstrating great professionalism, with seemingly perfect choreography and pitch.

After an epic Guitar Hero battle of “Children of Rock” between Dewey and Ned, Dewey begins to realise that his students may be able to allow him one last shot at music fame in the form of the Battle of the Bands and starts the process of identifying any learners with existing musical skill. This process reveals to the audience some incredible talents; with Zara (Aria Haswell), Katie (Autumn Lisseman) and Freddy (Harvey Clarridge) as standout performances using live instruments, even if the real electric guitar and real full size bass were a little comical to see weighing down such small children! Aside from effectively reciting lengthy scripts and holding character continuously within this show, we see the children sing, dance and actually play these instruments live for a very impressed audience, leaving the adult performers as almost an afterthought. Despite this, it should be noted that the adult cast are the glue that hold the show together, with the majority seamlessly switching demeanour, costumes and even accents to deliver at least two roles repeatedly throughout- as teachers, then parents, then back again on demand.

Photo by Poyner and Mee Photography 

Wrapping up the first act, we have some excellent physical comedy via Principal Mullins and Dewey and well-timed musical numbers that smoothly continue the flow of the plot, as musically directed by Derek Hunter. Having prepared his learners to perform, the audience is treated to a tongue-in-cheek, musically enhanced escape montage, as students quite literally skip and dance across the stage to the bemusement of a tense Dewey. Act 1 closes with bubbly comedy and an enthusiastic audition from the students performing “In the End of Time” with assistance from a tuneful Dewey and a disembodied Simon Cowell-esque voice, creating a clever ‘stage’ illusion for the audience on the already existing stage

Alongside Smith in the role of Dewey, Mullins (Carr) and the young Tomika (Ava Jayne Colford) offer the audience noteworthy signing performances, in particular a goosebump inducing rendition of Amazing Grace by Colford in the second Act. Pivotal acting performances also should be noted from a couple of young people in particular, including Elika Clarke who plays Band Manager Summer with a very skilful American accent, and Harry Woodward who plays a joyfully camp Billy, often seen brandishing sparkles or sequins in the second Act.

As our Second Act flows on, we see sparks fly between Dewey and Mullins over a classic Stevie Nicks jam and a parents evening gone very wrong, with Dewey’s real identity being dramatically revealed by Ned’s girlfriend Patty. When all seems lost and Dewey is hiding in his flat, his students find him and perform some complex syncopated musical moments, ready to recruit him back into the band, just in time for the final performance. With some truly entertaining costume and prop choices (Sarah Phillips, Grace Phillips), the Battle of the Bands takes place with the children demonstrating amazing musical prowess; including a wowed audience offering cheers and applause in response to solos by our main three musicians Zara, Katie and Freddy. Some rapid costume changes for the adult cast allow final meaningful interactions between the parents and the students, delivering a powerful ending for a beautiful and professional performance of School of Rock, with these talented young people putting even real life musicians to shame!


School of Rock plays at The Little Theatre in Leicester until Saturday 14th October. Limited tickets remain

Photo by Poyner and Mee Photography

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