REVIEW: School of Rock

Rating: ★★★★
Quick Summary: Young or old, Stick It To The Man, and go and see the feel good, uplifting and energetic School of Rock.

das
My Dad and I at the end of the show

School of Rock is an adaptation of the 2003 comedy film of the same name starring Jack Black. The musical is written by Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer), Julian Fellowes (playwright) and Glenn Slater (Lyricist), and is currently showing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in Drury Lane, London. 


T H E   S H O W

I first saw this show earlier this year, and alongside the ingenious fusion of rock, musical theatre and classical music influences, it was the vivacity and youthfulness of the cast that really stood out to me. I got the opportunity to take my Dad to see the show yesterday, and I knew he would love it simply because of the music; the show is saturated with nods to great rock songs such as Smoke on the Water, Satisfaction, as well as the rock concept album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. 

The thought that my Dad actually came away from the show with went beyond noticing the obvious witty and comically written play, and great integration of well-known and loved music into the score. The overriding feeling that you get coming away from this show is one that is relevant at any and every stage of your life: don’t get tied down by other people’s limiting beliefs. This can be from something as small as whether you read Vogue or Sports Illustrated, as Billy has to choose, or as big as whether you compete in Battle of the Bands or not. The positive message of “You Do You” is woven tightly throughout the whole show.

The only reason I gave this show 4 stars as opposed to 5 was that by the end, I did start to feel quite tired. I was sitting 4 rows from the front (I talk about ticket details later on), and so the noise levels were high throughout. HOWEVER, this is a tiny, tiny point and generally did not detract from the experience.


T H E   C A S T

Obviously, if you are going to see School of Rock then you are expecting a bunch of talented kids – and I can tell you, they do not disappoint! With cheesy over-acting thrown out of the window, the child cast of this production provides stellar vocal performances mixed with a convincing awareness of themselves and what they are trying to say. The harmonies in songs such as ‘Horace Green Alma Mater’ and ‘If Only You Would Listen’ highlights their cohesion and commitment.

I could not write a review on School of Rock without mentioning the musical talent of the kids in this production that I feel is unmatched on the rest of the West End. As Andrew Lloyd Webber announces over the loudspeaker at the beginning of the show, the children play all of their own rock instruments. The best moment in the show to demonstrate this is in the final song where the pit musicians all stand up and watch the show alongside the audience, as the children in the show alongside their mentor fake-teacher Dewey Finn rock their way through ‘Stick It To The Man’ and ‘Teacher’s Pet’, full of guitar, keys, drum and bass solos, bringing the audience to its feet. The musicality and finesse in their playing is professional in its standard.

The standout vocal performance came from the shy but brilliant vocalist Tomika, played by Fayth Ifil, who performed a rendition of Amazing Grace full of innocence and killer riffs to prove she can sing, which induced a thunderous applause from the audience. Also highly notable was the bossy and indignant Summer, played by Freya Yates, who was very impressive in her ‘Time To Play’, hitting a belted Db at the end of the song.

Among the adults, both Craig Gallivan (down-and-out amateur rock star, Dewey Finn) and Rosanna Hyland (music lover turned uptight Headmistress, Rosalie Mullins) had fantastic performances. Rosanna Hyland’s ‘Where Did The Rock Go?’ was full of emotion, bite and effortlessly clear top notes. Her rendition of Queen of the Night was unassuming and highly enjoyable. Craig Gallivan’s Dewey Finn was hopeful, uplifting and unfailingly energetic, all matched by his perfect diction and fantastic voice.

Side note, the cast is changing on 22 August. Details can be found here


T H E    T H E A T R E

As far as the theatre itself goes, the Gillian Lynne Theatre is modern, spacious and well designed. No matter what seat you go for, you generally won’t get a bad one as the stage is so wide that you can see from most angles. From the furthest to the side in the front row, you will see the whole width of the stage, albeit with a few missing spots deeper into the set. The seating at the back of the stalls and the upper circle is well rigged so that you can easily see over the people in front of you, and don’t have any of those “back-of-the-head” viewing moments.


T I C K E T S

The prices for this show are fairly reasonable if you are savvy when buying your tickets, and the show is absolutely worth the price. If you buy in advance (and maybe get matinee tickets) then you could easily spend a maximum of £35 a head in the stalls, which for a West End show is pretty good – I was seated 4 rows from the front with excellent views in seat D52, on a Saturday matinee performance for £35 per ticket.

The School of Rock website tells you the best dates with the best prices, so this is a great website to use.  Also don’t be afraid to be seated slightly to the side of the theatre, as the view is very rarely compromised!

Top tip: if you are over 5’4″, then a great cheaper ticket to get is in the front row of the upper circle. It is advertised as ‘restricted view’ because of a barrier and lighting rig that hangs over the front of the upper circle, but for anyone over 5’4, this does not obstruct at all, and the leg room is great!
If you’ve seen School of Rock, share your experience either in the comments or on our Instagram page!

Rosie x

REVIEW: A Court of Thorns and Roses (series)

Full synopsis of
A Court of Thorns and Roses(1), A Court of Mist and Fury (2), and A Court of Wings and Ruin (3)

Quick summary: Romantic, unpredictable, unbelievably addictive, and so well constructed!
Rating:
A Court of Thorns and Roses – ★★★★
A Court of Mist and Fury – ★★★★★
A Court of Wings and Ruin – ★★★★★

(This does not include A Court of Frost and Starlight… Future me will do a review for the spinoffs when they’re all out)

As spoiler free as I could!



Prepare for major gushing because I absolutely LOVED this series!

This series is an absolute must-read for anybody who has any remote interest in YA because it has everything YA novels should have. The world of Prythian has been constructed so intricately and believably that it is impossible not to get lost and caught up in it. The relationships that emerge and are developed are heart-wrenching and beautiful. The writing itself is so detailed and full of imagery that you vividly believe the world is real.
This series made me want to linger on every page because I didn’t want it to come to an end, and yet the unpredictability makes you turn the pages as quickly as you can.

The plotline is so well constructed, and so clever; everyone just needs to bow down to Sarah J Maas.  Every character you encounter makes you wonder what their story is, and what part they are going to play. The love story between Tamlin and Feyre in ACOTAR is intriguing and has spark and romance, and the undertones of the Beauty and the Beast retelling is magical.
However, for me the series just improved and improved with every novel. The plot line of the first book becomes merely a seed that Sarah J Maas has sown to set us up for the twists and turns of the rest of the series. A Court of Mist and Fury unravels so many intricacies and personal stories that I would bet the vast majority of EXISTENCE would not have guessed. Everything we thought we knew about the characters in the first novel is flipped on its head, leaving the poor YA reader quaking and reeling (in a totally good way though, I promise). This authorial ability to warp and change our views of characters is so clever and I really loved this development of the plot.

The relationship between Feyre and pretty much any of the other characters is just so captivating because every time a new relationship pops up, it teaches us something new about her depth of personality. The constant reminders throughout the books of the differences between these relationships was key because it jarred the trust and knowledge we thought we had in the characters (side note: this is really hard to explain without giving away spoilers, so just read the books!)  

Basically, the web of characters Sarah J Maas creates is intricately designed and fascinating. Each character is three dimensional and real. They are not all good or all bad; in fact there are only one or two out-and-out evil antagonists. All of the characters reflect human nature, and this absolutely adds to the power of the books because you start to believe the world exists and the characters exist. Maas’s ability to create layers of audience and contradictory impressions of characters is perhaps what makes these books so addictive because I for one wanted to find out the next piece of information, or the next revelation from characters.

These books are like little masterpieces; the language, the plots, the characters all contribute to this. I, however, think the real genius lies in the gentle unraveling of the novels. We find out conversations that have happened without us knowing, and morsels of the character’s stories are revealed at intermittent points. We learn more and more about the history of the world, and we are not sure that good will conquer evil right until the end. This series summarises everything I love about YA fantasy and books in general; they should take you on the journey and keep you hooked, as well as wholly invest you in the lives and emotions of the characters. This is something this series did for me and I would 100% recommend!

Rosie x

REVIEW: Shatter Me (series)

Full synopsis of Shatter Me, Unravel Me and Ignite Me

Quick summary: Slow starter, but once I got into it I did enjoy it.
Rating: Shatter me – 5/10
Unravel me – 7/10
Ignite me – 8.5/10

THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS, SORRY!

Full synopsis of
Shatter Me (1), Unravel Me (2), and Ignite Me (3)

Quick summary: Slow starter, but once I got into it I did enjoy it.
Rating: Shatter me – ★★
Unravel me – ★★★★
Ignite me – ★★★★



THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS, SORRY!

Just before I start, this series review is only for Book 1, 2 and 3 of the series (i.e Shatter Me, Unravel Me, Ignite Me.) All of the other spinoffs and the new Restore Me might come up in a later review, or I might re-edit this one, but for the moment it’s just going to be the original series.

This is a series I was majorly conflicted about when I first started reading it. I really wasn’t sure about the writing style, which was modern, and seemed to ramble slightly. However, I had bought all three books as a set and so wanted to persevere so as to feel like I hadn’t wasted my money, like the tight stingy person I am. I am glad I did this because the books did keep improving and I was hooked by the third book.

I found character development to be the strongest part of Mafi’s writing in these novels. Part of the reason I didn’t like the first book was that the characters were not three dimensional enough for me. Although Juliette and Adam each had interesting back stories, I found their immediate love story cliche and honestly quite boring. However, as the second and third books unfolded, I started to become really invested in the characters, particularly as Juliette began to understand herself more, and her relationships with Warner and Kenji began to develop. I loved the relationship between Juliette and Warner; I really like how Mafi gives us insight into the ‘evil’ character. This development of Warner from a psychopath to a genuine man who had a really difficult childhood was so refreshing and interesting. I think it was the psychology behind Warner’s character that kept me hooked on the books – I’m really glad Mafi took this plot path for the trilogy, or I would not have enjoyed it anywhere near as much.

In terms of the plot, I think that there were fascinating twists and turns which made these books different from other YA novels. The relationship between Warner and Juliette was a particularly strong plot point, as it allowed for character development of Juliette, Warner and Adam. Although I would not describe these novels as having been a page turner for me, I do think that they were interesting and the world in which they were set was well constructed.

The third book, Ignite Me, was, for me, the strongest book of the trilogy. By the time I got to the third book I was invested in the world because it had grown on me as the series progressed. It was somewhat repetitive, as certain phrases (such as “I swallow, hard”) were used lots throughout, and this started to annoy me towards the end. Having said this, I did get used to the writing style and there were captivating aspects. I liked that as Juliette became disenfranchised with Adam, the reader began seeing his flaws and failings, inviting us to make a more weighted judgement on him; equally, as she became more infatuated with Warner, he became kinder and sweeter in our eyes as well.

Ultimately, although I did like these books by the end of the series, I feel like had I not bought them as a trilogy then I might not have gone further than the first book. I do think they are worth reading if you want to read a series, because they are psychologically interesting and there is good character development, but for me they were a slow starter and did not immediately captivate me. It was definitely the character of Warner that made these books.

Also, side note, I really like the covers and the books are that satisfying floppy kind, which is really nice.

Rosie x