The Final Say: School of Rock


“Give up. Just quit. Because in this life, you can’t win. Yeah, you can try but in the end you’re just gonna lose BIG TIME because the world is run by The Man…

There used to be a way to stick it to the Man, it was called rock and roll. But guess what? Oh no, the Man had to ruin that too with a little thing called MTV!”

Ned Shneeebly (Dewey Finn) — School of Rock

This December, School of Rock The Musical opens on Broadway. Music by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, book by Lord Julian Fellowes. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like THE MAN is stealing School of Rock. I’d cry “Look out, Broadway!” but it’s far too late for any of that. Like the camel from Buckaroo- despondent, broken and weary of life- Broadway will slink another commercially contrived piece of rubbish over its furry, bruised hump.

Whether or not it’s any good is irrelevant (though, here’s hoping it’s a decanter of defecation). No, the outcome doesn’t matter. The appropriation of School of Rock by Lloyd Webber and Fellowes is a disaster regardless of the result. This classic film about washed-up rocker Dewey Finn becoming a substitute teacher and forming a band with school kids is being hijacked. Hijacked!!

Sadly, I have a feeling that it’ll run for years and years.  The 2003 film is so beloved that to fuck it up would be an extraordinary feat of failure. Of course, that’s why Lloyd Webber bought the rights: to squeeze a hit from a hit, to wring success from a success. His award winning conveyor belt has fallen into disrepair and this is the remedy.

If his motivation, as he claims, is to do justice to the film, then he should plough his money into a Mike White/Jack Black collaboration. At the very least he should have Mike White, the creator of the film, writing the book and not his old pal Fellowes. But it’s a vanity project and he’s doing it because he can.

I can’t begrudge Lloyd Webber and Fellowes liking the movie. I’m all for Thatcherites feeling emotions, smiling, shedding tears etc. It’s good for them; they can be saved. But clearly they weren’t watching closely. The moral compass of School of Rock points firmly away from their worldview. It’s not about winning, it’s about creativity. It’s not about a Darwinian model of culture, it’s about a supportive community. Lloyd Webber has been a major force in creating a West End culture where his name is everything, creation is stifled and challenging art is discouraged. What would Dewey Finn think of that?

But hope never dies. What if it was all a brilliant rouse conjured up by Richard Linklater, the film’s director, most recently lauded for his pioneering work, Boyhood? What if Jack Black, resurrected as Dewey Finn, got word of the musical and was so appalled by the commercialism and trite cynicism behind the project that he enslaved another band of wandering kids. Using this new cohort, he’d burst into the stuffy Broadway theatre and challenge the fake School of Rock to a one-off Battle of the Bands. No doubt the Broadway bunch, made up of kids hothoused since conception, would be technically superior but the moral victory could only ever go one way.

The quest for authenticity has never been harder. Back in the unspecified day, you could spot an artistic fake a mile off. It was like telling the difference between an Inter Milan top and that black and blue knock-off your Mum bought you from a beach vendor. Easy. Now, instead of producing lame replicas, The Man appropriates the things we love in order to wear down our bullshit detectors. The Man convinces Paul McCartney to do X-Factor, The Man puts the Sex-Pistols on credit cards. Indeed, I’d have lost all hope for anything genuine in this world if it wasn’t for my latest Rolex Yacht-Master Watch™. Efficient, reliable, and stylish, it’s every columnist sell-out’s dream.