As the curtain fell on the final night of School of Rock, a sense of achievement, joy and pride were the prevailing sentiments for a team of cast and crew that worked extremely hard to resurrect the ‘School of Rock’ production felled by COVID-19, last academic year.
When it came to showtime, however, the hardships of the preceding months became but a distant memory for the performers who were finally able to seize their opportunity to shine.
Their performances were crisp; the music was electric, the lighting - superb. From the opening scene, protagonist Dewey Finn (played by Louis Audibert), set the stage for a show that saw audiences visibly grooving in their seats to every song. Another standout included the initially bratty Summer (Pim Pim Ongphiphadhanakul), who endeared herself to audiences as the show went on. Audible gasps were heard throughout the Khunying Sumanee Memorial Hall when Tomika (Aira Piriyalertsak), shook off her imposed shyness and sang at the top of her lungs. Not to be outdone, Principal Rosalie Mullins (Maeve Herman) gave audiences a Stevie Nicks-inspired solo befitting her Drama Scholar status.
Each song was impactful and conveyed the desperation that Dewey and his new ensemble had to make it to 'The Battle of the Bands'. The skill in which each musician acquitted themselves on their instrument belied their age, a testament to how hard they rehearsed since the initial auditions back in September 2019.
The production was a full team event, with every member pulling together to make the show a triumph. Two such examples were Mr Ron Saw, who worked tirelessly with the onstage band, giving multiple lunchtime sessions to the young performers; while Ms Mary Ungrangsee ensured that no singer lacked vocally. Head of Drama, the unfaltering Ms Kay Sanders, was full of praise for her crew, describing them simply as - brilliant. It must be said that her commitment to putting the show together was an incredible effort.
"So much goes on that the audience may not consider; from backstage to front of house, the tech team to the tailor who made our costumes - this production wouldn’t have taken place if it weren’t for the huge team effort. All of these elements came together over the last few nights in a way that made me extremely proud," she said exhaustedly.
Ms Sanders was insistent on describing the positive way the production picked up where it left off in March - with all members working in unison.
"It wouldn't be what I would call an ideal preparation given the stunted schedule, but we never used that as an excuse - we used that as fuel to perform better. It was certainly a highlight of my time at Shrewsbury, and I hope that the performers and everyone who came to watch felt the same way."
As the show itself came to a close, it dawned on this reviewer and other spectators that this was a perfect production for a school like Shrewsbury, Riverside. With a stellar music department capable of coercing every bit of talent out of its performers, a Drama department that inspires its young actors to be fearless and a support staff that pitches in wherever needed - School of Rock was always destined for the Hall of Fame.
For sheer resilience and a will to succeed despite the speed bumps on the way - School of Rock was an award-winning, unmissable performance.