Review Roundup: You're in the Band! SCHOOL OF ROCK Opens on Broadway- All the Reviews!
Based on the smash hit 2003 film of the same title, School of Rock: THE MUSICAL, with music from the movie, as well as an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater, a book by Julian Fellowes and direction by Laurence Connor, makes its world premiere on Broadway tonight, December 6, at the Winter Garden Theatre. Alex Brightman leads the cast as "Dewey Finn," with Sierra Boggess as "Rosalie Mullins."
SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL follows Dewey Finn, a failed wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. Completely disinterested in academic work, Dewey decides to create his own curriculum, turning his class into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Remember when Andrew Lloyd Webber's music was demonized as despicably subversive irreverence that undermined everything that was good and decent about America? If you were around in the early 1970s you'd surely remember that he and lyricist Tim Rice were considered quite the dangerous radicals when JESUS CHRIST SUSPERSTAR hit these shores. You can celebrate those good old days now with the English Lord's enthralling, high-energy kickass new hard-rockin' musical at the Winter Garden. Add to the mixGlenn Slater's solid set of lyrics, the funny and sincerely touching book by Julian Fellowes and a top flight cast led by director Laurence Conner, andSchool of Rock is a big, beautiful blast of musical comedy from start to finish.
Ben Brantley, New York Times: Me, I melted when two little girls started singing the backup chorus from Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (one of many genial nods to classics). All the children are defined as distinct individuals but without excessive shtick. My personal favorite: the petite, poker-faced Evie Dolan as Katie the bass guitarist... Mr. Brightman never makes the mistake of trying to upstage his young co-stars; he gets down with, and brings out the best in, them in a performance as notable for its generosity as its virtuosity.
David Cote, Time Out New York: It worked for the movie, and wow, does it work on Broadway, a double jolt of adrenaline and sugar to inspire the most helicoptered of tots to play hooky and go shred an ax. For those about to love School of Rock: We salute you. What a relief to see that an unlikely creative team-Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, veteran composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater (Leap of Faith)-successfully execute such a smart transfer of film to stage.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Andrew Lloyd Webber's first new work for Broadway in a decade is an otherwise workaday screen-to-stage adaptation, with a generous (and, I'm guessing, hoarse after every show) lead actor and faithful, if prosaic book by an unlikely writer-"Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes. Webber's rock musicals ("Jesus Christ Superstar," "Joseph ...") are a polarizing bunch. I don't imagine most of the big numbers here will enjoy an afterlife; they're inferior to his earlier confections. Or, perhaps I need to hear them a few more times-orchestrations frequently drowned out actors, and I wasn't always sure what was being said.
Matt Windman, AMNY: Essentially a modern version of "The Music Man," it charts how out-of-work musician Dewey Finn (Alex Brightman) lands a gig as a substitute teacher at a snobby prep school and turns his class into a garage band, giving the children self-confidence in the process...The dozen or so children are wildly talented and absolutely adorable. I dare you not to smile as they stomp around and chant that they will "stick it to the man."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Led by the hilarious Alex Brightman in a star-making performance that genuflects to Jack Black in the movie while putting his own anarchic stamp on the role of Dewey Finn, the show knows full well that its prime asset is the cast of ridiculously talented kids, ranging in age from nine to 13. They supply a joyous blast of defiant analog vitality in a manufactured digital world... It might sound lame to suggest that School of Rock works in large part because of the charms of a bunch of adorable kids.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: While paying his respects to that manic role model, Alex Brightman maintains his own appealing brand of scruffy charm as Dewey Finn, amiably ceding the spotlight to a cast of super-talented kids who rock out on the kind of songs you always wished had been in the movie...Thankfully, nothing savage has been done to the original film story - except to lay on the energetic rock songs that people tend to remember as having been in the movie.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: For his much-anticipated return to Broadway, and the very theater where his ubiquitous kitties pawed and warbled their way through a different era, the ever-savvy Andrew Lloyd Webber has kept himself and his ditties more in the background. He has pushed to the fore a group of rockin'-out U.S. youngsters so capable, charming, vulnerable and aspirational, their open hearts surely will fell any and all resistance... You keep waiting for a really great rock number that never quite arrives, a sticky but repetitive ditty called "Stick it to the Man" notwithstanding. But with the help of lyrics by Glenn Slater, the score more than does its job theatrically.
David Finkle, The Huffington Post: Oh, yes, musical comedy aficionados, it's the non-voting-age players, including the adorably proficient Isabella Russo as the band manager, who steal this undertaking while the bigger names above and below the title hit wonky notes on their figurative Fender guitars. Now, [Lloyd Webber]'s more likely to be called out for trying to prove he's as contemporary as can be, though his newest melodies and riffs, which he orchestrated, conjure only Broadway-rock of the '70s. If just about all the numbers swiftly begin to sound alike, that's because they are--as is JoAnn M. Hunter's choreography.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Alex Brightman takes over for Black in the new musical version of "School of Rock," which opened Sunday at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre...When he wipes his sweaty torso with a towel and then throws it into a girl's face or spews a mouthful of soda on another teacher (again, a female), he's just a big boorish thug. Missing completely is that anarchic edge of comedy..."School of Rock" is no movie classic, but worth watching because of Black. What the musical most needs is a complete overhaul for the stage; instead it gets Julian Fellowes' faithful-to-a-fault adaptation.
Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: School of Rock won't be leaving any time soon, of that I'm pretty certain. Exuberantly loud, high-spirited and upbeat, it's a feel-good show for Boomers and, god-help-us, our grandchildren. While none of the songs (with lyrics by Glenn Slater) is equal to Lord Lloyd Webber's best ("Memory," from Cats, say, or "As If We Never Said Goodbye," from Sunset Boulevard), they're more than good enough and several add depth to the admittedly shallow pool that was Richard Linklater's 2003 Paramount film starring Jack Black. For that, credit also must go to the genius of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, who wrote the book for the show.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Webber blasted the theatrical doors down to let rock in with such shows as "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Cats" but how could he handle this assignment? Not too badly, it turns out. While leaning a little bit too much on his new song "Stick It to the Man," Webber, with lyricist Glenn Slater, turns in some perfectly solid mainstream rock-ish anthems in "Mount Rock" and "If Only You Would Listen." He even mocks the genre with "I'm Too Hot for You."
Charles McNulty, LA Times: Between the cacophonous score and over-obvious book, I was ready to pronounce "School of Rock" a miserable failure before the first act was even halfway through, but something happens once Dewey decides to turn his classroom into an incubator for the next Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin. The connection between Brightman and the young cast begins to glisten, and I found myself smiling delightedly during the jaunty "You're in the Band" number...
Peter Marks, Washington Post: In terms of imaginative energy, director Laurence Connor's production, with a book by "Downtown Abbey's" Julian Fellowes and lyrics by Glenn Slater, doesn't measure up to another Broadway offering focused on hyper talented schoolchildren, Matilda... As with so many shows in this genre, "School of Rock" suffers from an overload of brand devotedness: it doesn't cover much territory that the movie on which it is piggy-backing already did. And in important ways, it proves to be less than the sum of its filmic parts.
Christopher Kelly, NJ.com: Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest effort "School of Rock: The Musical" will win no prizes for originality. A faithful-bordering-on-slavish adaptation of the 2003 Richard Linklater comedy, this big, noisy musical transposes virtually every scene from the film onto the stage... Lloyd Webber's music and Glenn Slater's lyrics are a forgettable pastiche of contemporary Top 40 pop-rock, as if Creed, One Republic and Train all turned up to perform at a junior high school mixer.
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: "Are you not entertained?" bellows Russell Crowe at the arena in the 2000 movie Gladiator. All during School of Rock, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Colisseum-loud musical that has just premiered on Broadway, I kept asking myself the same question. Like the victims of those enslaved warriors, I felt pummelled by the experience. Yet the tremendously talented children in this cast perform with an intensity that only a churl could deny.
Linda Winer, Newsday: The first thing to know is that the kids, cast through a high-profile talent search, are genuine children who play their own instruments, and they're all terrific. The other essential fact is that the substitute teacher, a character indelibly stamped on the film by Jack Black, has been shrewdly honored here by Alex Brightman, a helium balloon of a force that can bounce off walls and manage tender emotions with equal conviction.
Jesse Oxfeld, Entertainment Weekly: School of Rock isn't perfect. But if, as the musical suggests, perfection is less the point than trying hard and having fun doing so, then it succeeds. There's a bit in it, repeated from the movie, in which Dewey tries to convince the other teachers that he has an educational philosophy by lifting some lines from Whitney Houston. And if the children are in fact our future, School of Rock suggests we're in pretty good hands. B+
Alexsis Soloski, Guardian: Pay no attention to the title. School of Rock, the perfectly pleasant, perfectly innocuous new musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Glenn Slater, and Julian Fellowes, is strictly adult contemporary. An adaptation of the 2003 Jack Black flick, it centres on a schlubby manchild who transforms a gaggle of overprivileged preteens into a wickedly awesome ensemble.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: How could you possibly resist them, these fresh, sunny faces and sweet pre-pubescent voices that dominate the cast of School of Rock -- The Musical(*** out of four stars)? Did I mention that some of the kids also play musical instruments, live? For the uninitiated, the show, which opened Sunday at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre, is an adaptation of the beloved 2003 Jack Black movie. The film casts Black as Dewey Finn, a would-be rocker who, after getting fired from his band, borrows his house mate's identity to land a gig as substitute teacher at an elite private school.
Jesse Green, Vulture: A disreputable charmer brings the joy of music to a staid community while stirring up romance with an uptight lady: If the plot of School of Rocksounds like a great musical, that's because it is. It's The Music Man. ButSchool of Rock, however much it borrows the shape of Meredith Willson's 1957 classic, has a different agenda, one that's arguably more timely and certainly less poetic. Its Harold Hill figure, called Dewey Finn, has real instead of imaginary instruments to offer, and the music he's evangelizing isn't Sousa but the Stones. Nonconformity replaces community as the theme; the key title in the score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater (with a few songs lifted from the hit 2003 movie) is called "Stick It to the Man." Trouble, we are told, isn't something music will prevent but something it will enhance: "Wreck your room and rip your jeans / and show 'em what rebellion means."
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Director Laurence Connor's staging is inconsistent, but his young actors/musicians all kick axe. Brightman is huggable and kinetic and rocks steady as a slacker who saves the day. The actor lives up to his surname and earns his gold star. Better, gold devil horns. But he can't save a show that can't get out of its own way - or add much to the classic movie.