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KDVP knocks School of Rock out the park

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From the popular 2003 comedy film starring Jack Black to the 2015 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, or even the 2016 television adaptation, School of Rock is a well-loved story that can reunite any viewer with their inner child who would much rather join a rock band than attend class.

King David High School Victory Park’s production of School of Rock, directed by Renos Spanoudes, which opened on 10 April with seven performances until 16 April, was a lively celebration of music and its ability to bring people together.

The musical follows passionate, struggling guitarist Dewey Finn, who takes up his friend, Ned’s, position as a substitute teacher at a posh school in order to make ends meet. However, after discovering his students’ musical talents, he decides to form an undercover band with them. In spite of opposition from the school and parents, the kids form close bonds and excel in their performance in class. Ultimately, their passion shines at a battle of the bands competition, leading to a newfound appreciation for Dewey’s unorthodox teaching methods.

As a comedy, the show is predominantly comprised of strong character roles with archetypal eccentricities and one-liners. Each of the students committed to their individual characters, and made an impressive effort to sustain the energy throughout the show. Some stand-out character roles included Dewey (Ricky Kotton, Jethro Crawford); Billy (Naphtali Kramer, Samuel Bonner); Lawrence (Josh Woolf, Rael Fine); Rosalie (Danni Hellman, Liana Wes); Summer (Ella Passman, Meah Radford); Zack (Jake Wolman, Jed Miller); and Ned (Ayal Krawitz, Christian Lees), among many others.

Musical interludes and vocal performances by a number of students served as occasional breaks from the narrative, and provided an opportunity to highlight individual singers and dancers. The ensemble performances were full of energy and showcased many different personalities in the space of a single performance.

The live music was a highlight of the show as it lent authenticity and an appreciation of rock ’n roll. The band, led by musical directors Nikki Richard on saxophone and Simon Smith on guitar, included talented students Daniel Brenner, Asher Katzew, Ben Obel, Dylan Moyal, and Oliver Kennard. Along with the accompaniment of the main band, a few of the actors also exhibited their musical skills. There was a particular moment that satirised the classical music taught in most schools, in which the students “played” cardboard instruments with an overzealous conductor and obnoxiously timed cymbal clashing.

The school hall was fitted with an impressive number of detailed sets. The main stage was configured as a school classroom, with desks, chairs, and a chalkboard. This “classroom”, of course, doubled as the space in which the students held their secret band rehearsals. The additional scaffolding on either side of the stage each contained two other sets. On the right-hand side, was the live band on the bottom half, and Ned’s apartment above it. On the left-hand side was the school staff room, with a tuck shop area underneath. At the end of the play, large panels of fabric were used to conceal parts of the set and create a performance space for the battle of the bands.

The space became an immersive environment through the placement of crates along one side, on which cast members sat, while other cast members performed in the aisles. Not to mention the School of Rock van, which drove through the hall, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention, as well as the newsboy, who drove around on his bicycle.

The atmosphere on stage felt consistently lively and full, however, it was only during the finale that the audience could conceptualise just how many talented students were part of this cast, in addition to the dedicated SALT and PEPPER teams. This show truly encompassed the enthusiasm and collaborative effort of an authentic high school production.

  • Hanna Resnick is a former intern at the SA Jewish Report, now doing a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of the Witwatersrand.

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