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NODA Review - School of Rock

School of Rock Cre8tiv Theatre Company

School of Rock the Musical is based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black about Dewey Finn, the wannabe rock star that dreams of nothing more than being a rock God and winning battle of the bands. When his bandmates kick him out, Dewey is more determined than ever to succeed in creating his own band, but the rent won’t pay itself. His high school buddy and flatmate, Ned Schneebly and his overbearing girlfriend, Patty Di Marco are starting to lose patience with him. So, when Dewey takes a call from the Principle of Horace Green school who are enquiring about the availability of Ned, a substitute teacher, he does the only thing he believes is right, he becomes Ned Schneebly in an attempt to make an easy buck.

However, he suddenly realises that the band that he has always wanted may very well be right in front of his eyes when he learns that his new students are not only very academic, but also very talented musicians as well. Could this be the opportunity that Dewey, otherwise now known as Ned, has been looking for? Can he win battle of the bands and launch himself to Rock stardom?

Chris Higgins is no stranger to musical theatre. He is no stranger to Noda too, having been a District Rep himself until the arts led him onto a different path. Chris has combined two loves of his life, music and theatre, and thus, the Cre8tiv Theatre Company was born. A company produced with one of the other loves of his life, his wife Claire.

With the launch of a new Theatre Company comes the first steps into the spotlight and what better way to launch themselves onto the stage than School of Rock the Musical, one of the very few amateur theatre companies in the country to perform it. With the lights dimmed, the guitars tuned and an auditorium full of eager people wanting to rock, we began our journey.

Chris himself performed the role of Dewey Finn after nobody turned up to audition for the part. Fortunately, Chris is multi-talented, so the role of Dewey Finn came naturally to him. Chris has had his fair share of bad luck in his past. Twenty two years ago he was involved in a bad road accident and had to be airlifted to hospital, the resulting injuries causing him nothing but set backs throughout his life and, during the performance week, he was on additional painkillers just to help him get through. Based on his performance, you wouldn’t have known it at all. He literally burst onto the stage as Dewey Finn and never let his foot off the accelerator. Much comparison will always be made when performing shows like this, but Chris made the role his own. He was unbelievable! Not only did he busy himself on the stage, but he is part creator of the theatre company and also Director. I half expected him to be pulling pints in the bar during the interval.

Chris was ably assisted by his wife, Claire, who was on Assistant Director duties as well as Choreographer. Claire looked as if she had choreographed the whole audience, as everyone was on their feet dancing during the final act. I must also pay credit to Claire for the marketing of this show. Her dedication to the promotion of the show certainly got the levels of excitement rising.

Chris and Claire roped in the help of friends and family to help with multi roles during the show and I must admit, it was difficult at times to work out which roles each actor were playing, as they were so different from each other, which only added to the experience. My congratulations to Millie Williams-Bentham, Zoltan Tar, Caitlin Pumphrey, Maurice Tabener Mallone, Kristy Jones, Gayle Hewburt, Abby Fell, Maxine Bray, Rhianna Bell, Drew Barr and another Claire Higgins – Chris’s sister!

Sam Duffy’s portrayal of Mrs. Mullins, Horace Green’s headteacher was breath taking. Mrs. Mullins is a hard up, sometimes cold hearted woman, but there is another version of her locked away inside. A younger, more free loving, fun Mrs. Mullins that is desperate to come out and we could really see that during a powerful rendition of the song, “Where Did the Rock Go?” Sam’s voice was beautiful and harmonic. Freddie Howson played the real Ned Schneebly. I absolutely loved his version of the character. He was fun loving and so full of anarchy, and you could see that side of him when he was with Dewey. The pair worked perfectly together. Bo Duffy played the overbearing, uptight girlfriend of Ned, Patty Di Marco. She encapsulated the role perfectly and we were even treated to her wonderful vocal talents. I loved how they showed Patty at the end, a side of her we never got to see during the movie version.

Now, that’s the adults out of the way. Let’s focus on the real talent. (Sorry, adults!) The kids. Now, where do I begin? I really do not know where to start. I must make a point that was made during the show. Everyone that held an instrument on stage were playing live. And boy, could these kids play! Summer Gracie played the role of Zara (Zach in the movie) a quiet, shy type of student living to the demands of her overprotective father. Summer got the role spot on and then we were treated to her guitar playing. Some of her riffs were out of this world and I couldn’t take my eyes away from her as she performed. Not an easy task performing in front of a sell out crowd, but she smashed it.

Katie, the bass guitarist, was played by Charlotte Hardcastle. I love the role of Katie as she just goes along with anything and is happy to be doing what she loves, which is exactly how Charlotte played it. Added by the fact that Charlotte is amazing on the bass and at singing too, it rounded off her portrayal perfectly.

Mia Gislow played the role of Lauren (Laurence in the movie). Lauren is worried that she isn’t good enough or cool enough to be in the band, but is constantly told otherwise by Dewey. She really comes out in her character and the performance was to perfection. Mia also plays the keyboard, not just well, but amazingly well.

Freddie Butler played his namesake, Freddie Hamilton who is the band’s drummer. Wow! Can Freddie knock out a tune on the drums. Outstanding! The character of Freddie is similar to Dewey’s. He is larger than life and Freddie played him to perfection.

Tilly Musson played the role of Summer Hathaway, the band’s manager, a role reluctantly offered to her by Dewey when she threatens to tell the Principal as to what was going on. Tilly WAS Summer. She became the character so easily and performed beautifully.

Liza Brady was Tomika, the shy and timid girl who wants to be a singer, but is too afraid. She is new to the school and has no friends. Nobody talks to her and she feels isolated. Over the course of the story, the veil drops and she gets that confidence to sing. Boy, can Liza sing. You could hear a pin drop during her version of “Amazing Grace”, her vocal talents were off the scale.

Jacob Jolly was Billy who is, for me, one of the best characters in the show. Billy is not of afraid of who he is or who he wants to be, despite his father believing otherwise. He is happy to be different from other boys and Jacob nailed this character.

Now, for the Demon Rascals! Summer Brady, Heidi Dawson, Isla Gilbertson, Beth Haworth, Armenia Kishmishian, Caitlyn Maclean, Isla Robinson, Isaac Wan and Madison Whitham were the Demon Rascals, and they were the life and soul of the party. They were the first at the front of the stage and never stopped dancing! I loved your energy and enthusiasm throughout.

Michael Mayor was the Music Supervisor, and every credit must go to him and his pit band for bringing together this wonderful piece of theatre. John Norton and Kevin Brock (guitar), Sam French and Malcolm Maclean (keys) and John Biscomb on Drums ensured that we were continuously entertained throughout and particularly during the set changes to keep the action flowing.

The set was fairly basic with two pillars either side which were spun round during scenes to either show the brickwork of the flat/concert venue or the markings of Horace Green school. It was the clever use of lighting that we really pieced it together, particularly during the scene between Dewey and Mrs. Mullins having a drink at the bar.

From start to finish we were thoroughly entertained. The show’s ending, if anything, rocked even more where I, among many others, were on our feet, clapping and dancing along with the band in celebration of a truly momentous show. Chris not only had the opportunity to showcase his talent, but the talent around him in the shape of his young students who blew the roof off the Lowther Pavilion.

The story of School of Rock tells us that it is ok to be different. Sometimes we worry about who we really are and how other people would see us, but we are taught that none of that matters. Being who you really are is the coolest thing you can be and that is a valuable lesson in life.

So, to finish, I wanted to borrow part of an AC/DC lyric to round up this review. This is for everyone who worked so hard into bringing this show together, for producing one of the best pieces of musical theatre to life and to showing us just how talented you all are. And so I say, For All of Those Who Rocked. I Salute You!

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