Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre: School of Rock; an Inspector Calls

Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre: School of Rock; an Inspector Calls

Article excerpt

Who could resist School of Rock ? For me it was a chance to see a heavy-metal musical written by the best-known headbanger in the House of Lords, Julian Fellowes. The movie features Jack Black as a failed rock guitarist who bluffs his way into a private school and turns a class of robotic snoots into a prize-winning band. It's one of the most joyous stories ever filmed. This version, faithfully scripted by his lordship, rises to the same level and delivers a night of sheer rapture. The thing is like a drug. Every performance sends skyrockets of happiness zinging up and down your spine.

David Flynn has an echo of Jack Black about him but he brings added stores of charm and humour to Dewey. Preeya Kalidas is wonderfully nasty as Ned's hideous girlfriend, Patty. Miss Mullins is played by Florence Andrews, who uses her opera training to add some hilarious quotations from Mozart. And yet she finds the melancholy and isolation of the former party girl forced to play the role of control-freak headmistress. The greatest laurels belong to the kids. Their musicianship is astonishingly assured and the rock genre carries the show to a new plateau, the realm of the magical. I could hardly believe my eyes as I watched little Selma Hanson, as Katie, strapping on a Gibson EB-3 (which looks longer than she is) and hammering out a bass riff that made my molars throb. Amazing Tom Abisgold seems not much older than 11 but he flings himself across the stage playing a starburst electric guitar with all the dexterity and exuberance of Hendrix. When he collapsed on to the boards while cranking out a 'face-melter' of a solo I wasn't sure if he'd fallen deliberately or was improvising his way out of a mishap. He didn't stop playing. People didn't stop cheering.

At the show's climax, the contrite parents rushed into the auditorium to applaud their kids in the 'Battle of the Bands'. And the whole house leapt to its feet. I'm not sure I've seen a more powerful finale to a theatrical event because the act of transformation represented is so vast, so unexpected and so thrillingly achieved. And the life lessons are sublime. Children, this show tells us, are honest, wise and good. Their parents are foolish, wrong and malign. Truth is found in play, not work. Creative anarchy beats copycat conservatism every time. Class kills, but life liberates. This is the finest musical I've ever witnessed. …

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