Eastbourne rocked to the School of Rock: A Review
- Credit: Paul Coltas
The audience were all ready to Stick It To The Man at the Congress Theatre after rocking along to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical on opening night
Move over Jack Black – there's a new rock god in town who’s already won the Battle of the Bands at Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre.
Jake Sharp, who plays Dewey Finn in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock The Musical, had the audience wishing they had air guitars as he led them on a spectacular rock-a-thon showcasing his acting chops and comedy skills as well as his singing and musicality.
From curtain up until the grand finale, Sharp delivered witty one liners (‘well it’s stronger than Chris Rock’s jaw!’), channelled the voice of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, the guitar playing of Guns N’ Roses’ Slash while looking like Jack Black’s hairier younger brother. No wonder he worked up a sweat.
But he didn’t outshine the pupils he’s determined to turn into mini rock stars who all performed live in the show.
From incredible rifts – the teeny lead guitarist can easily keep up with Sharp and play his electric guitar bending over backwards – to a top-of-the-class thumping bass, and a nerd-turned-Keith-Emerson's keyboard wizardry, the young cast are note perfect.
Add in the prim and proper Hermione Granger-style head girl, who becomes the band’s manager, and you’ve got the ingredients for a riotous show that had the entire audience – of all ages, including teens in School of Rock costume – well, rocking.
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School of Rock is the Olivier Award-winning West End hit show based on the 2003 hit movie starring Jack Black. The musical follows failed rock star Dewey Finn who poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious private school to make the money for his rent.
Once there, Finn turns his class of straight A-students into a mind-blowing mini rock band to enter the Battle of the Bands competition against his former bandmates who threw him out.
Cue plenty of jokes, guitar-shredding, bass-slapping and 14 stand-out new songs written by Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Glenn Slater, as well as all the hits from the movie.
While teaching these pint-sized prodigies what it means to truly rock, and reconnecting with their own dreams and their parents in the process, Finn falls for the school’s beautiful, but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within.
The musical played at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre in New York for more than three years and received four Tony nominations before transferring to London’s New London Theatre in 2016. During its three-year-run there it won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.
Leading man Sharp, who’s also starred in Mamma Mia! on stage and Doctors on TV, played Finn in the West End. ‘The show’s completely joyous,’ he says. ‘The cast are so inspiring to a new generation. Lots of them have previously come to see the show and now they’re in it. The energy that they bring, the natural energy that young people have, is amazing and it’s a complete pleasure being on stage with them. It keeps the show real and raw all the time.’
He doesn’t have any trouble keeping up with them though – even though he’s in almost every scene, and has to take all his singing, acting and playing skills to the max, Sharp delivers and inspires the cast to do the same. From beginning to end, it’s non-stop, high-octane entertainment that will make you laugh, cry (well at least tear up) and want to book guitar lessons.
It’s a fantastic night out that all the family can enjoy. Quite simply, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock rocks!
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock the Musical is at the Congress Theatre, Eastbourne while Schools Out for Easter from 12 – 16 April, nightly performances at 7.30pm and 2.30pm matinees on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Tickets priced from £25.50. Call the box office 01323 412000 or visit eastbournetheatres.co.uk