School of Rock

Date 29th July 2023
Society Darlington Academy of Performing Arts
Venue Hummersknott Academy
Type of Production Musical
Director Paul & Joanne Mason
Choreographer Paul & Joanne Mason


Author: Richard Hamilton-Leighton

This production of The School of Rock with Darlington Academy of Performance Art (DAPA) was the very first time I have ever seen this musical. The 2003 film had critical acclaim which led me to be excited to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation. DAPA did not disappoint me on my first visit to their society. The musical was being performed at Hummersknott Academy which hosted the 43 strong cast well with good use of the stage and floorspace.

The role of Dewey Finn was played by Paul Mason. Paul managed to encapsulate the immature character and his ‘Stick It To The Man’ demeaner well. I particularly enjoyed the amount of comedy he was able to portray. Dewey Finn is such a large part of this musical with most scenes being on stage, it was clear that you were driving the show forward with energy and pace, which you achieved throughout this marathon of a performance – well done.

Naomi Waite’s portrayal of Rosalie Mullins was suitably stern throughout most of the scenes. I enjoyed the character arc and how she was able to let herself go later in the musical showing a great amount of acting versatility. Her classical vocals lended themselves well to the character. They were at their best specifically in, ‘Where Did The Rock Go?’

Ned Schneebly, played by Julian Pinkney, was the husband to Patty Di Marco, played by Cathryn Lee. I enjoyed Julians performance and his journey to revisit to his youth. Cathryn provided a strong portrayal of Patti. These two performers worked very well together and demonstrated a good amount of chemistry. A highlight for me was the comical use of costumes at the end of the production.

The ensemble provided the backdrop of students from Horace Green Academy. I was impressed by the overall vocal ability in numbers such as, ‘Horace Green Alma Mater’, and ‘Stick it to the Man’. There was much enthusiasm and passion within the company, and I could tell that every person was enjoying themselves. Keep up the good work!

The band consisted of Zack who was played by Remy Lee, Freddy who was played by Leah Sorrie, Kate who was played by Heidi Newnham and Lawrence who was played by Owen Morris. I thoroughly enjoyed these performances and in personal highlight was, ‘If Only You Would Listen’. The harmonies were strong and the ability for these performers to truly tell their characters story was impressive. With some youth productions, companies can run a risk of performances which lack authenticity – this is certainly not the case with these performers. You should be proud of your achievement.

The star of the show for me, without doubt, was Penny Kipling who played the tenacious band manager, Summer. Not only did you manage to bring to life this vivacious character, but you also injected pace into the scenes and delivered some of the best comedy throughout. Vocally, your opening of Act two, ‘Time to Play’ was astute and confident which showed that you knew exactly what you needed to do. I was very impressed with your performance – well done.

The vocalist of the night goes to Isla-Grace Hood who played Tomika. Isla-Grace you have a powerhouse of a voice that absolutely soared during your performance of Amazing Grace. The tone and timbre of your voice was excellent.

When reviewing productions, it is often the case that the reviewer focusses just on the performance on the stage. I was impressed to learn that the Stage Manager, Backstage Crew, Sound and Lighting were all completed by teenagers between the ages of 10 – 17. The show ran very smoothly, and the audience could never have known that this show wasn’t run by a group of adults. As I was leaving the show, I was lucky enough to speak to one of the lighting team. I must say that this young man was an asset to the society. He introduced himself very confidently, asked me if I enjoyed the show and then explained to me about how much he values working on the lighting. This young man exemplifies what youth amateur theatre is all about – giving opportunity to learn new skills, develop existing skills, make friends, improve confident and entertain audiences.

Overall, this was a confident performance from a strong theatre group. Well done to you all.