BWW Review: Ottawa's SCHOOL OF ROCK Will Rock Your Socks Off at the National Arts Centre

BWW Review: Ottawa's SCHOOL OF ROCK Will Rock Your Socks Off at the National Arts Centre
The cast of the School of Rock Tour. © Matthew Murphy.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit Broadway show, School of Rock the Musical, is based on the 2003 movie starring Jack Black. It tells the story of Dewey (Rob Colletti), a down and out rock n' roll guitarist, who has just been kicked out of his band.

Under false pretences, Dewey gets a gig teaching at Horace Green, a snooty preparatory school headed by Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp). Dewey is unprepared (not to mention unlicensed) for the job and has no interest in it apart from financial - that is, until he hears the kids' talent in music class. Inspired, he endeavours to give them a musical education . This is entirely self-serving, as Dewey still wants to compete in an upcoming Battle of the Bands and sees the children as his ticket there.

The children, meanwhile, face an array of teenage troubles: they are misunderstood, unheard and alienated outcasts. Their parents, who pay a whopping $50,000 a year to send their children to Horace Green, want their children to succeed in life but have stereotypical, preconceived notions as to what success means and don't have the time or patience to hear what their kids are trying to tell them.

It becomes a mutually beneficial relationship for Dewey and the children. Dewey begins to feel a sense of purpose in his new role and the children gain confidence and acceptance under Dewey's tutelage. Just as they are ready to take on Dewey's old band at the battle, he is found to be an imposter and efforts by the staff and parents are made to remove him from the school and from the kids' lives.

The talented cast, led by Colletti channelling Jack Black, brought the story to life. In any musical where children make up a large proportion of the cast, there is always a risk that their performances will be uneven, compared with the adults. We don't need to worry about that here.

Prior to the start of the show, a pre-recorded Lloyd Webber informed the audience that all the children do, in fact, play their musical instruments on stage. Had this not been expressly stated, we could have been forgiven for believing that they were merely very talented air guitarists. And they can sing and dance on top of that.

BWW Review: Ottawa's SCHOOL OF ROCK Will Rock Your Socks Off at the National Arts Centre
The cast of the School of Rock Tour. © Matthew Murphy.

Many of the children are given the opportunity to shine on stage. This is particularly true for Tomika (Grier Burke), who eventually breaks out of her shell to belt out a powerful rendition of "Amazing Grace" in order to prove that she is a star and not merely a backup singer. Katie (Leanne Parks), on bass, is clearly taking her job seriously, complete with a pouty rock n' roll diva expression.

Summer (Sami Bray) is highly entertaining as the little Miss Know It All who is constantly nagging Dewey. When Dewey referred to her as "Hermione Granger" to make the point, the audience laughed out loud.

The supporting cast of parents / teachers provided a nice contrast to the sometimes overly boisterous Dewey.

The score is not Lloyd Webber's best work, but the songs are still catchy enough to have you tapping your feet or clapping along with the band. Some of the best songs showcased Dorsett Sharp's impressive vocal range.

BWW Review: Ottawa's SCHOOL OF ROCK Will Rock Your Socks Off at the National Arts Centre
Rob Colletti and Lexie Dorsett Sharp in the
School of Rock Tour. © Matthew Murphy.

The scene changes - from Horace Green's classroom, to its grandiose hallway, to the children's homes, to the local dive bar - were done seamlessly, as you would expect from a production of this calibre. The stage lighting during the band's final performance was blinding, but everything a good rock and roll concert should be.

This is a feel-good, enjoyable, family friendly musical with a cliché happy ending. None of the songs will be memorable enough to get stuck in your head, but they are fun nonetheless. After all, everyone can relate to wanting to "Stick It to the Man" once in a while.

Broadway Across Canada presents School of Rock the Musical at the National Arts Centre's Southam Hall through Sunday, September 30th. For more information or for tickets, go to https://nac-cna.ca/en/event/18600.

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From This Author Courtney Castelino

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