Review of School of Rock at the Sunderland Empire: 'I laughed, I cried, I rocked - I got evacuated'

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End smash hit School of Rock was unfortunately cut short following a false fire alarm at Sunderland’s Empire theatre – but did 90% of the performance rock?

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 1:19 pm
A publicity shot showing a scene from School Of Rock at New London Theatre. ©Tristram Kenton

It was quite a shame that the performance was cut short, especially after seeing such talented children – who should have received a loud round of applause – playing instruments that should take more years of practice than they’ve been alive.

The musical, which is based on the hit 2003 movie starring Jack Black marked the comeback of West End shows on Wearside for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Sunderland Empire’s Gala night was supposed to be a special performance to thank its supporters, but sadly ended before the grand finale.

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A publicity shot showing a scene from School Of Rock at New London Theatre. ©Tristram Kenton

Lack of communication between staff and the audience left theatre-goers aimlessly standing in the rain wondering what was going on, which did ‘dampen’ the mood.

Nonetheless, the shortened performance is due credit and I imagine it would have received a huge round of applause.

Wannabe rock star Dewey Finn played by Jake Sharp, hilariously poses as a substitute music teacher at an prestigious private school in a desperate bid to earn cash.

Filling the shoes of Jack Black is a huge ask but Jake’s performance, while a little cringe was humorous and the kids seemed to enjoy laughing as he exposed his belly during scenes.

Crowds were evacuated from Sunderland's Empire Theatre on Wednesday evening.

But the stars of the show were definitely the children who helped Dewey Finn AKA Mr Shneebly achieve his dream of performing at the Battle of the Bands.

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I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the young actors and actresses in the show were in fact playing their own instruments live.

The talented drummer, guitarist, bassist, keyboard player, singers and dancers were impeccable and should be commended for their impressive musical gift.

While ‘Mr Shneebly’ taught the class of straight-A students the rules of rock and roll, uptight headteache Miss Mullins was on hand to keep an eye on the ‘rogue’ substitute teacher.

The role of Rosalie Mullins, played by Rebecca Lock was matched perfectly and her incredible voice reached heavenly notes and tones.

Ned Schneebly, a part captured by Matthew Rowland was geeky and awkward – everything that a Ned Schneebly should be.

While being a musical and naturally full of songs, the 14 new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and all the original songs from the movie felt too much and appeared to drag at times.

Each song was executed extraordinarily well, but just a little too many for me.

The only thing missing was the grand finale song which I can only imagine would have involved lots of jumping, dancing and guitar playing before a round of applause echoed in the Empire theatre.

Full of rock and roll, high energy and top class voices – while a little long, The School of Rock is ideal for the family and will have all the kids laughing.

The School of Rock runs at Sunderland Empire until Saturday, October 9.

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