BWW Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at The Hobby Center

BWW Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at The Hobby Center
The cast of the School of Rock Tour.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Having never seen Richard Linklater and Jack Black's 2003 film School of Rock, aside from the occasional TV trailer seen over a decade ago, I cobbled together the plot fairly accurately from bits and pieces of "movies like these." In fact, more so than the Linklater film, the roots of SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL are "movies like these." And that's not a bad thing.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater wrote the score and Julian Fellowes wrote the book. The show is nearly as pedigreed as the characters on Fellowes' PBS masterpiece Downton Abbey. (Pun intended.)

It's a simple story. Dewey Finn, played by Rob Colletti, gets kicked out of the band he created - No Vacancy - right before the Battle of the Bands. Then there's trouble at home. He's been mooching off his best friend, Ned Schneebly (Matt Bittner) for years, but now Ned has a girlfriend -- Patty (Emily Borromeo) -- who is cramping everyone's style. Ned has to repress his goth rock tendencies and now Dewey has to pay rent. But, as luck would have it, Rosalie Mullins (Lexie Dorsett Sharp), Horace Green School Principal calls one day to offer a job to Ned Schneebly. A job that pays $950 a week. Dewey steals a substitute teacher gig right underneath his much more qualified and hardworking friend by impersonating said friend. Once he's at Horace Green, Dewey (now Mr. Schneebly) turns a class of fifth-graders into the School of Rock band. Then he sets out to crush his old band with his new band at the Battle of the Bands.

In an interview with BroadwayWorld, Colletti said he worked hard on vocal technique and physicality, but that he had so much in common with his character, Dewey, he didn't have to do deep character research. Based on his performance, he is either a genius or disingenuous. I put my money on the latter. The role was molded for Jack Black. Colletti molded himself for the role. Colletti excels at playing immature, inconsiderate (and failing) rocker Dewey. It takes a unique talent to say awful things to children and still remain likeable. He has a great voice and he uses it well, well enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with SCHOOL OF ROCK's army of prodigious triple threats.

Speaking of the School of Rock band, those kids play the hell out of those instruments. They made me realize that not only do I not know how to rock but that I have been desperately desiring to rock my entire life. Zack, the young guitarist played by Phoenix Schuman, is a prodigy (just like the young actor who plays him and the entire youth cast of the show). Katie (Theodora Silverman) is a cool as a cucumber bassist. Lawrence (Theo Mitchell-Penner) is a keyboardist and sex god. Freddy (Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton) is the drummer who made me want to learn the drums. Tomika (Gianna Harris) is the sweet shy girl with a whole lotta voice. And watching over it all is - not Dewey - but Summer (Ava Briglia), Type-A personality and School of Rock band manager.

While the first act speeds along, keeping pace with a well-versed audience, the second act drags. It's the double-edged sword of the genre piece. Sometimes, you're hurtling towards an inexorable end and sometimes you're slithering towards it. Also, the comedy lacks subtlety and originality. Like "fat person orders ribs, potatoes with gravy, pie with a Diet Coke." (I'm a card-carrying fat person and I drink a regular Coke with my burger, thank you.) But sometimes old-fashioned, unsubtle jokes work. I learned during this production that the spit take never gets old. (For whoever is interested, there's also a pretty good Jar Jar Binks joke.) And the music is good, so good that I wish this rock musical was a rock opera. "You're in the Band," "Stick It to the Man," and "Where Did the Rock Go?" make SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL more than worth it.


SCHOOL OF ROCK - THE MUSICAL runs through February 4, 2018. Remaining performances are at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, please call 713-315-2525 or 800-982-2787 or visit thehobbycenter.org or broadwayatthehobbycenter.com. Tickets start at $35.


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From This Author Katricia Lang