School of Rock the musical Review

The roof blew off the Lyric Theatre, QPAC at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit new musical, School of Rock at the Brisbane premiere night! This rockin’ show is based off the 2003 Jack Black film of the same name and follows the story of Dewey Finn (Brent Hill) and the students of Horace Green Prep as he pretends to be their teacher to fund his rent debt and wants to enter to the ‘Battle of the bands’, but discovers the kids insane musical talent and enters them in the competition as ‘The School of Rock.’ The cast of pint-sized pros are absolutely mesmerising as they play their instruments live every night! The night was incredible as the audience went wild emulating a real rock concert.

The founder of the band, Dewey Finn is played by the astounding Brent Hill. His performance as the washed-up failed musician is phenomenal as he teaches the kids of Horace Green what it means to be in a rock band. Along the way he teaches them to stand up for themselves and get their parents and teachers to pay attention to them. Brent really commands the stage and everyone can relate to Dewey, especially in the scene where the children are trying to get him out of bed to attend the ‘Battle of the bands’ when he fails to believe in himself. The dry humour that Brent is able to express is hilarious, particularly for the adults watching.

His obvious bond with the kids is so special and he carries the show as equals with the rest of the band. One of the highlights of the show is when you see him listening to the kids and he picks the guitar player, Zach’s song ‘Teacher’s pet’ for them to play at the ‘Battle’ instead of his own. This illustrates that he learns a lot from these children as they do from him. His singing suits his character’s rock ‘n’ roll vibe which is perfect for the piece. Brent is off-the-charts and oozes the lust for talent that Dewey needs for this role. 

Amy Lehpamer embodies the up-tight and stuck-in-her-ways Principal of Horace Green Prep, Rosalie Mullins. Her glorious performance kept the audience on their toes and invites you in to a day in the life of her school. Amy holds on to her strict persona that keeps the students in line and has some incredible moments when she meets Dewey Finn (as Mr. Scheebly).

Amy is a tremendous singer and that talent is exemplified in the ‘Horace Green Alma Mater’ and the operatic ‘Queen of the night.’ She conducts the music class and performs flawlessly. The kids are playing orchestra band style music and Amy portrays the Principal wonderfully as she disciplines the class as they are bored out of their brains.

On the contrary you get to appreciate how well Amy and Brent bounce off each other on stage in the Roadhouse bar scene. The audience discovers a rock chick side to Rosalie as Dewey finds out she has this love of Stevie Nicks and starts hilariously rockin’ out to the Stevie song, ‘Edge of seventeen.’ Amy is fantastic during this moment of the show as it is a turning point for her character. She lets loose and becomes very vulnerable as she belts out the ballad, ‘Where did the rock go’, making her agree to let the kids go on a field trip. Little does the Principal know it is for an adult rock contest.

The young guitarist Zach is a role shared by Ben Swissa, Jayden Tatasciore and Zane Blumeris. Zane played Zach on opening night and he was electric on his guitar. His talent is unmasked and has an amazing ability to pull an audience in, especially during the moment when he is showing Dewey his original song, ‘Teacher’s Pet’, it was brilliant. Zane is a true star on the rise.  

Katie the gifted bass guitarist in the band is unforgettable in this production with the piggy tails and pout she has all the heart and sass. Her character is embodied by Samantha Zhang, Tiana Mirra and Remy Grunden. Remy appeared outstandingly as Katie for the opening show. She impeccably became a cellist to a kick-ass bass guitarist both in the show and in real life. Her quirky personality shines through in all aspects of the production as she interacts with the other actors and is the ultimate performer.

The out-of-this-world drummer, Freddy is personified by Bailey Landeg, Ethan Stephenson and Kempton Maloney. Kempton performed on the gala night and has the most incredible musical chops, playing the drums in real life for 6 years. You can see he lives to play music and his cheeky personality shines throughout the entire show.

The Elton John-esque keyboard star, Lawrence slayed the show. Orlando Schwerdt, Caleb Elbourne and Heath Jelovic take turns playing him. Caleb was dazzling on opening night and conveyed the absolute courage and talent to portray Lawrence and his quirks. He is vulnerable at the beginning of the show when he believes he isn’t cool like the other kids and he transforms into a confident superstar by the conclusion of the production and it is wonderful to see.

The band manager herself, Summer Hathaway is a strong, bossy character that you wonder what she will have up her sleeve next. Ava McInnes, Stephanie Kipnis and Yvette Pugat all have their chance to step into Summer’s shoes. Stephanie owned the stage at the Brisbane opening. She was very sassy and her unexpected but comedic timing was brilliant. One of the best moments for her was in her big song ‘Time to play,’ in this number Stephanie steps up and has a great singing voice as she tells everyone to get in line.

Australia’s John O’Hara embodied the washed-up rocker turned teacher, Ned Schneebly with his geeky personality; he is so perfect for this role. He lets his girlfriend, Patty walk all over him like a door-mat, he is so loyal to her. It is beautiful to see how Brent and John bounce off each other as old band mates, especially during the scene where they are playing Guitar Hero,’ it is so fun to watch. The breakout moment for Ned is when is has had enough, defys Patty and attends the ‘Battle of the bands’ serving the most rockin’ badass look, it creates a full circle moment for him and he shows off his confident side.

Nadia Komazec is absolutely brilliant as the one and only uptight girlfriend of Ned, Patty Di Marco. Nadia is perfectly overbearing as Patty and wants Ned to forget his old rock days and look to a more serious future. She commands the stage, particularly when she demands that Dewey pays his rent or he will be kicked out. In addition when she storms into the school telling everyone that Dewey isn’t Mr. Schneebly. Nadia is very sassy and is such a big presence; she was born for the stage.

The child ensemble cast had several starring roles including the wonderfully shy singer, Tomika. Bella-Mia Bortollin, Chihana Perera and Riley Thomas take turns playing this show-stopping character. Chihana Perera gave everything to this role during the gala performance. I love how vulnerable she is and her starpower shines by the conclusion of the show when she belts out her solo.

The sassy and flamboyant role of Billy is amazingly played by Lenny Thomas, Hudson Sharp and Amon Prete. Amon was the wonderful costume designer of the band at the premiere and uttered the infamous line, ‘You’re tacky and I hate you.’

The whole child ensemble rocked it and danced and sang with such passion and joy it was infectious, in particular Aston Droomer, Elijah Savinskis and Oscar Mulcahy as Mason, Riya Mandrawa, Kayla Muir and Annie Jones as Marcy, Ava Rose Houben-Carter, Ashlyn Norman and Rachel Kipnis as Shonelle, Gabriel Ingram, Lachlan Young and Zac El-Alo as James and Ruby Moore, Maya Corbett and Lucia Schwerdt as Sophie.  

The adult ensemble cast all take on multiple roles but illustrate the intricacies of each character splendidly. They play teachers and the staff lounge scenes are a stand-out as they try to see what Mr. Schneebly (Dewey Finn) is all about as they constantly hear music seeping out of his classroom. All of the different educators were so quirky and in character superbly, especially Ms Sheinkopf played by Markesha McCoy as Principal Mullins’ right-hand woman.

The ensemble also embodies the student’s parents and act like rich people who have kids as accessories and don’t pay attention to their children. This is exemplified in the scene where the children sing an incredible ballad entitled, ‘Listen.’ Throughout the heartfelt song the parents are on the phone or telling them to stop playing rock music. This tune makes the audience emotional and feel for the children.  

This production has breathtaking musical numbers by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater that make you want to find your inner rock star and others that make you feel empathy for the ones pouring their hearts out on stage.

The most joyous moments in the show were the songs where all the kids in the band were finding themselves and their voice, including ‘You’re in the band’, ‘Stick it to the man’ and ‘Teacher’s Pet.’ The children all have something special to bring whether they are a talented musician, singer, dancer or actor, they all rock out with the helping hand of their teacher played by Brent Hill.

You don’t want to miss this rockin’, hilarious musical with heart, passion and immense tiny talent. It will inspire you and your kids to find their voice and use it with pride! Rock on and see the School of Rock in Brisbane!

Book your tickets to School of Rock the musical at QPAC until 18 August!

Tickets here

5/5 stars

Photo Credit – Supplied