‘School of Rock the Musical’ at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, Review

‘School of Rock’ has been a family favourite since the film — starring Jack Black — came out in 2003, and after being transformed into a musical in 2015 — with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and the Playwright being Julian Fellowes — the stage show has also been met with worldwide success.

The show ran from the 9th of November – 13th of November at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, as part of it’s UK Wide Tour, and I went to see it on the 12th. Since then, I had a pretty hectic November that has made me unable to write this review until now, but here’s my thoughts on the performance I saw nonetheless.

One of the main things that made the performance so great was the cast, the adult version which included Jake Sharp as Dewey Finn, with Alex Tomkins performing the role in certain performances. Rebecca Lock took on the role of Miss Mullins, with Matthew Rowland joining as Ned Schneebly, and Nadia Violet Johnson joining as Patti Di Marco. But based on whether Jake Sharp or Alex Tomkins played the lead on the night I was there — we were only able to get a brochure and not a programme — I feel like they were able to make me feel like I was watching Jack Black, a big plus for anyone who has grown up being a fan of the movie!

Something I wasn’t a big fan of was the fact that a couple of the songs were changed from the original motion soundtrack, mainly the ‘Give Up Your Dreams’ song that Patti is meant to sing, and replaced instead with a shorter version. However, the rest of the performance more than made up for that, and the before point was only truly made based on the fact that I have been repeatedly listening to the soundtrack for the last few years.

Something else I also liked was how towards the end — when, in the film version, the parents of the kids arrive at the show — the actors playing the kids’ parents came into the audience, which made the show seem extremely real. This was the part that made me forgive my earlier disappointment of a song being cut short, and it was an extremely clever angle to the entire performance.

As well as everything I’ve mentioned so far, there are a couple of other points. Miss Mullan’s was extremely well played, as was Ned Schneebly, and as was Patti. The set design was also extremely clever, and I thought each design matched the scene perfectly. But most importantly, the kids were extremely good.

So overall, I think the performance I saw of ‘School of Rock the Musical’ was extremely well performed, with good set designs to go along with it. Other than still being disappointed over one song in it, the rest of it didn’t disappoint, and there were clever ways around how to turn a scene in the movie into a scene on stage, which was extremely well done.

‘School of Rock the Musical’ was on from the 9th-13th of November, and will resume the tour from the 15th of January next year. Overall, I will give the performance 4 out of 5 stars, and it was an extremely good show.

“I Laughed, fought the temptation of singing, and couldn’t stop head dancing” – Six the Musical at the Grand Opera House Review

”Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.”

That’s normally how we think about Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. But in ’Six the Musical’ – a concert-like musical written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss – it is completely different.

For starters, you could hear the excitement of the audience when the show was about to begin, and the costume design was fabulous. I loved how the queens followed each other on stage saying each of the words they’re remembered by, and how each queen had her own specific style. You could see this in personality as well as style, and the Retro design for the ‘Haus of Holbein’ song added an even more energetic style to an already very energetic show.

Away from the costume and set design though, I loved how each of the songs were performed, and the relationships each wife had with each other, as well as the jokes that were told throughout. The relationship between Catherine of Aragon (played in this performance by Lauren Drew) and Anne Boleyn (played by Maddison Belleyment) was a modern day twist on what you would expect from the faithful wife and the original ‘other woman’, which actually mixed very well with the entire narrative of the musical. As someone who has listened to the soundtrack and looked up videos of the performance on YouTube for the last year, it has always been the songs ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ and ‘Six’ – the final song – that has always got me, and I did have to fight very hard not to sing during those songs, but made do with head dancing during the bits that I found too difficult instead. But the jokes told actually made those songs work, and although I know that historians like my parents would object to the ‘bad girl, not too politics minded’ Anne Boleyn character, I do think the portrayal I saw made her the best queen overall. Mix in Jane Seymour (played by Caitlin Tipping), and the Anne Boleyn jokes became even better: from the “Oh do you know what’s worse than dying after giving birth to your child? Having your head chopped off” joke; to the “Well I actually bore him a daughter and he cut my head off”, I actually found that these jokes added more humour to the musical than it would have if they weren’t there, and the “So yes, I got beheaded”, after ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ was too funny not to laugh at. Nearer to the end, I also loved how Catherine A would argue about how many mistresses the king had during the time she was married to him, just for Anne B to come back with “Well do you want to know how bad my time was? During our marriage I had not one but five miscarriages!” This rivalry, however, I think also let the other queens show their own characters, especially Anne of Cleves (played by Shekinah McFarlane), Catherine Howard (played by Vicki Manser) and Catherine Parr (played by Eléna Gyasi) – in a way that actually teaches their own history better than schools do, and makes them look like the peacemakers.

So what did I think of the entire performance overall? Well as the daughter of a historian – and of two people who did history at university – I can say going to see ‘Six’ in person has taught and made me realise stuff about the six wives – and women’s rights – that I would have rolled my eyes at and not paid any attention to when they tried to explain it to me for 23 years. Having all the wives reaching peace with each other and realising how they are connected to each other through marrying the one man was the best ending, and the words of the two last songs are clearer to me now than they were a night before seeing it. The fact that it’s an all female cast and that the band on stage with them are referred to as the Ladies in Waiting, makes it historic, and the fact that Henry never appears makes it even better. The last thing worth mentioning is that despite the fact that the wives in most cases didn’t have happy endings, they do give us an edited version of a happy ending, since it is their show, which makes it even better.

So overall, I will give this performance *****, and it was a brilliant welcome back to the theatre life. I would definitely pay to see it again.

‘Six’ is currently on a UK and Ireland Tour, and I saw it on its last night in Northern Ireland. It is currently on until the 16th of October in the Bord Gáis theatre in the Republic of Ireland.