Monday, October 10, 2022

SCHOOL OF ROCK -The Musical - Dramatic Productions.

Zac Raffan (Dewey) and cast.

Directed by Marty King – Musical Direction by Kat Tang

Choreography by Nathan Rutups – Costume Design by Miriam Miley-Read

Lighting Design by Jacob Aquilina – Sound Design by Kyle Moley

Presented by Dramatic Productions - Gungahlin Theatre, October 7th – 22nd.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

The Ensemble - "School of Rock"

In presenting the first Canberra performances of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, “School of Rock”,  Dramatic Productions uncovered enough talented young actor/musicians during auditions to be able to mount two casts of principals for the show, leading to a decision to field two casts, labelled “Small” and  “Tall”,  who perform the show on alternate nights.

The season opened with the “Small” cast, which refers to physical stature rather than age or talent.

“School of Rock” is based on the 2003 movie of the same name, and revolves around the character of Dewey, an out-of-work, would-be rock singer and guitarist, who spends his time fantasising himself as a rock-god. At this performance Dewey was played with unrestrained gusto and irresistible enthusiasm by Zach Raffan.  Dewey has been couch-surfing in the apartment of his best friend, Ned, much to the chagrin of Ned’s girlfriend, Patti, who wants Dewey out.

In an effort to raise his back-rent, Dewey passes himself off as a substitute teacher in a prestigious school. After identifying musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-graders in the hope of winning the forthcoming Battle of the Bands contest.

Zac Raffan (Dewey) and cast

The show is performed on an attractive, versatile setting equipped with lots of unexpected pull-outs and pull-downs efficiently operated by the large cast to represent a variety of locales, with the sound cranked-up to rock concert level – well it is a rock musical after all.

The witty costumes by Miriam Miley-Read, spot-on choreography by Nathan Rutups,  performed with enthusiasm by the entire cast,  and the great rock-sound achieved by Kat Tang’s terrific unseen but definitely heard band, all added to the enjoyment of Marty King’s well-rehearsed direction.    

Delightful performances abound among the adults in the cast led by Taylor Paliaga as the imposing headmistress, Rosalie Mullins who eventually melts under Dewey’s charm offensive, though not before unexpectedly dashing off a few bars of Mozart’s Queen of the Night Aria, thereby confirming the oft-repeated rumour that Lloyd-Webber often seeks inspiration for his songs from classical sources.

Equally impressive are Courtney Hayden as Ned’s over-bearing girlfriend, Patti, Bradley McDowell as Dewey’s best friend, Ned, and Giuliana Baggoley as the stitched-up Mrs Sheinkope.

But inevitably it’s the young members of the cast who steal the show with their confident acting and brilliant musicianship. Outstanding among them, 11 year old Zayn O’Shaughnessy as Zack who amazes with his prodigious mastery of the rock-guitar.  

Zayn O'Shaughnessy (Zac) and members of the band.

Anneke Hollier-Smith on keyboards, Zoe Fox on bass guitar and Sujaan Biddle on percussion all provide show-stopping moments.

Hester McDonald as the shy Tomika, captivates with her beautiful voice doing justice to the best song in the show, “If Only You would Listen”, as did Lincoln Newell asserting himself as the budding designer, Billy;  Edith Baggoley as the ever-efficient know-all, Summer;  and Jacqueline Tatam, quite adorable as Sophie.

Dramatic Productions are on a winner with this excellently produced and performed musical. If the “Tall” cast, led by Max Gambale as Dewey, is anywhere near as captivating as the “Small” cast, and there’s no reason to doubt that they are, then audiences will find it hard to resist the temptation to see both casts to choose their own favourites.


                                                 Images by Janelle McMenamin

           This review first published in CANBERRA CITY NEWS on 09.10.22