School of Rock: Andrew Lloyd Webber praises talented young cast
Andrew Lloyd Webber has said he was surprised how easily he found the young cast for his new West End musical School of Rock.
Speaking on Monday's opening night, he said being able to assemble the cast quickly allowed him to bring his plans forward for the London production.
The show is based on the hit 2003 film starring Jack Black.
It tells the story of a wannabe rock star who poses as a teacher and forms a band with his students.
"We were originally going to open next April, because I thought that we would find [the casting] much more difficult than we did," Lord Lloyd-Webber told the BBC.
"I think we could have cast the show over again."
School of Rock had its world premiere on Broadway almost a year ago, earning four nominations at this year's Tony Awards.
Because of UK child labour laws, the West End production at the New London Theatre features three teams of 13 young musicians and singers - 39 in total. All of them perform live.
David Fynn, who plays the lead role of guitarist Dewey Finn, said the constant rotation of the young cast kept him on his toes.
"Each new team come in with such energy it gives me nowhere to hide. I have to match that. It also gives me a really good excuse to be childish all the time."
Fynn stars alongside Florence Andrews as school head Rosalie Mullins, with Oliver Jackson playing Finn's ex-band mate Ned Schneebly and Preeya Kalidas as Ned's girlfriend Patty Di Marco.
The musical features 12 new songs by Lord Lloyd-Webber, with lyrics by Glenn Slater and stage dialogue by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.
"It takes me right back to my days with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat nearly 50 years ago," Lord Lloyd-Webber said.
"That started in a school and it's all about the empowering force of music and how it can transform everybody's lives."
Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, with the Daily Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish saying in a five-star review it was "the most enjoyable few hours money can buy".
The Guardian's Michael Billington called it "Lloyd Webber's most exuberant show in years".
Mark Shenton's review in The Stage said that Lloyd Webber had gone "back to his rock roots" and produced "his freshest musical in years".
The child cast "all deserve to be showered with gold stars", added The Independent's Paul Taylor.
Oscar Francisco, 12, who plays geeky keyboard player Lawrence, said it had been exciting perform after months of rehearsals.
"It was good going on stage for the first proper night and having the crowds to react when you play your solos," he told the BBC.
How did he manage combining his two or three performances with his school work?
"It's difficult and tiring," he said. "It involves a lot of sleep!"
School of Rock is currently booking at the New London Theatre until 12 February.