Entertainment & Arts

Mixed reviews for School of Rock musical

School of Rock Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The show stars Alex Brightman as rockstar wannabe Dewey Finn

Broadway musical School of Rock, written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, has opened to mixed reviews.

The show, which was a hit 2003 film starring Jack Black, is about a wannabe rock star who poses as a teacher, forming a band with his students to enter a music contest.

The Guardian said the musical had "lost its mojo" and was "innocuous".

The Hollywood Reporter, however, described it as a "crowd-pleaser".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music for the show

"In terms of screen-to-stage remakes, this is neither the most imaginative nor the most pedestrian of them, falling somewhere in the respectable midrange," it said, praising the children in the show as "junior dynamos", adding: "The kids get the show's most poignant moments".

The New York Times said the musical would rejuvenate Lord Lloyd-Webber's career, saying while it was "unlikely" to restore him to the heights of Evita and Phantom of the Opera, it was his "friskiest in decades".

Speaking to the BBC, Lord Lloyd Webber insisted: "We've had some rave reviews here - neither Cats or Phantom did anything like this. The reviews here are ninety percent positive, it's the best set of reviews I've ever heard in America by far.

"I'd forgotten what it was to have a night like that in New York, I haven't had one like that for a long time."

The Guardian also praised the show's youngsters, saying: " The children are universally adorable and several of them are staggeringly accomplished musicians. It is an absolute treat to hear them."

But the newspaper was not entirely complimentary about Lord Lloyd-Webber or Lord Fellowes and his co-writer Glenn Slater.

"Lloyd Webber knows how to do this. Or he used to," it said. "Jesus Christ Superstar, for all its 70s noodling, remains a quintessential rock musical. Here any hard electric edges have been sanded away. Slater's lyrics are serviceable as is Fellowes's book, though it would be helped by more of his cutting wit."

'Saved by the students'

Variety was more positive, saying it was an exuberant feel-good musical, praising Alex Brightman's "appealing brand of scruffy charm as [teacher] Dewey Finn", ending its review by saying: "Rock on, kids, rock on."

Lord Lloyd Webber said: "The universal feeling is that Alex has absolutely nailed it, he's just phenomenal, he's just a fantastic rock tenor, a great comedian but also brings great pathos to it as well.

"It's got a real message that, quite simply, music has the power to transforms peoples lives."

According to the LA Times, the show was "saved by the students" because it "squeaks by with the lowest of passing grades, but each and every young actor in the cast deserves to be on Broadway's honour role".

West End run

"'Rock' is surprisingly easy to swallow, in large part because everyone involved seems to be having such a fine time," it said.

Lord Lloyd-Webber announced after the show's opening that it is opening at the London Palladium in autumn 2016. Dates for the West End run will be confirmed in the New Year.

He said: "I am thrilled to announce that we are confirming a West End production of School of Rock - The Musical. We have had such a great time in the US staging the world premiere and now that we have opened on Broadway, I am delighted to be focusing on the next chapter in the show's journey."

The composer added that a National Company of School of Rock - The Musical will launch a US Tour in the autumn of 2017, playing coast-to-coast engagements across the US.

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