What could possibly happen in a prim private school, that prides itself on high test scores and chart stars, when a down and out wannabe rockstar poses as his teacher best friend simply for a quick paycheck? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “School of Rock” will give you the answer in the most inspiring way.
It’s not your typical intense Webber production like “Cats” or “Evita”. It’s fun-loving but teaches lessons in parenting, dreaming, and persevering. And who better to deliver that message than a rejected, freeloading, rock band guitarist who can’t seem to move on from his passion to play.
The musical is adapted from the 2003 movie by Richard Linklater starring Jack Black as Dewey, the rock-n-roll reject. Rob Colletti as Dewey was a perfect pick on the Broadway Light Series show. Grungy and disheveled would describe Dewey on a good day and Colletti gave just enough funny without stepping into slapstick.
The hopeful rockstar is booted from the band that he helped start right before the Battle of the Band competition that he so desperately wants to participate in. Never mind that he owes his best friend, Ned (Matt Bittner) rent money and Ned’s girlfriend Patty (Emily Borromeo) is breathing down Dewey’s sweaty neck to get it. Hold up in his room plastered with Mega Death posters and dirty sheets infuriates Patty even more; especially because Ned is a low-paid substitute teacher as she trots off to her job everyday.
Comedy immediately ensues when Dewey intercepts a call from Horace Green Prep School and poses as Ned, a qualified sub. The audience is introduced to uptight, by-the-book teachers who are nervous about Dewey’s teaching methods and straight-laced, misunderstood kids who just want to be noticed. Each student has their own look, personality, and parental predicament to sift through. They also lend undiscovered talents to the band, thanks to Dewey’s skill for identifying their best qualities.
If you get to the show before the lights turn down, Lloyd Webber confirms that the students play their own instruments and they’re all quite impressive. Theodora Silverman as Katie, puckers her way through tunes, strumming her bass guitar, while Phoenix Schuman as Zack has the quintessential rocker stance when plucking his strings. Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton is a true professional on the drums and Theo Mitchell-Penner as Lawrence brings it home on the key board.
The children fight through their lack of self-confidence with Dewey’s help and then must, in turn, encourage him to not quit the band once his world comes crumbling down around him.
The prep school kids with matching uniforms but differing strengths keep the musical balanced and youthful. Their pretentious parents pour their ill opinions onto their children without realizing their purpose just as Dewey’s colleagues do the same to him. The class of misfits are much like their teacher, attempting to force a square peg into a round hole. It won’t fit. It’s meant to exist in it’s own space living with the shape unlike any other in the box.
My five year old thoroughly enjoyed this show. In fact, this was the only performance that started at 8:00 p.m. that she watched in it’s entirety. She tends to catch Zs with the countless others we’ve attended. There were many children in the audience smiling and rocking out, and a few parents (myself included) that covered ears and eyes due to the adult nature of certain scenes. Nipple teasing (yes, really) and hip thrusting caught me by surprise but the organized chaos certainly did not. It was all on purpose.
Image courtesy of Matthew Murphy