Review: School of Rock, Palace Theatre, Manchester

SCHOOL'S out...and there is no stopping the classroom chaos when the School of Rock roars on to the Palace Theatre stage.

From the blast of the first power chord you know those Christmas cobwebs are well and truly going to be blown away. 

The musical version of the iconic 2004 film is another Andrew Lloyd Webber triumph, proving he can turn his hand to just about anything with this fresh, powerful and exhilarating retelling of failed rock guitarist Dewey Finn conning his way into a private school and unleashing (Bat Out Of) Hell on the well-heeled pupils.

Warrington Guardian:

Helped by their natural ability and discipline, Dewey unlocks their full rocking potential - and his own as he finally finds the purpose in life he's been so lacking amidst all the hangovers, fast food binges and questionable personal hygiene routines.

Having a likeable lead who manages to live up to the force of nature that is Jack Black in the original film is the key to the success of the show and Alex Tomkins (playing the alternate lead on opening night) effortlessly fills the brief - funny, charismatic, believable and of course, musically mesmerising.

The real stars are, as it always should be in any school production, the children. A remarkable cast of actors, dancers and musicians, all - as Lord Lloyd Webber's disembodied voice informs us at the start - playing their own instruments. The future of rock is in very safe hands and the comedy timing is as tight as the band they form.

Warrington Guardian:

While sticking faithfully to the plotline of the original, the musical bravely shuns the teaching of standard rock classics that carries the classroom scenes in the film. One brief, inevitable blast of the Smoke On The Water riff aside, the musical sequences are all based on original compositions - but neither energy nor impact suffer for it.

Of course, Lloyd Webber will always have room for a couple of ballads to give a more reflective feel to the chaos, particularly a moving scene when uptight head teacher Miss Mullins (played by the incredibly talented Rebecca Lock) reminisces about her own Stevie Nicks-inspired heyday.

It truly is a musical for everyone, taking the warmth, humour and energy of the original work and cranking it up to 11, with the entire audience on their feet cheering at the end.

School Of Rock – a real class act.