BWW Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at Times Union Performing Arts Center
Class is in session at the School of Rock and they're teaching Jacksonville all about rock-n-roll! The musical featuring music from Tony Award winner Andrew Lloyd Webber, is based on the 2003 movie School of Rock. The musical follows a man, Dewey Finn (Merritt David Janes), as he impersonates his best friend Ned Schneebly as a substitute teacher at Horace Green. When Dewey realizes he is in way over his head, he hears his students playing classical music. He decides he will teach them about rock-n-roll, and they will compete in "The Battle of the Bands." The musical displays amazing music, a great story, and life lessons for everyone to take away.
School of Rock features many child actors who are some of the most talented actors I have ever witnessed. They all play their instruments on stage, as well as sing, dance, and act beyond their years. Zack (Mystic Inscho) can absolutely shred the guitar in ways I can only dream about. He also already has many of the rock-n- roll moves down, like sliding across the stage on his knees while strumming out a solo! Katie (Leanne Parks) has great attitude on bass, and also has achieved ultimate rocker status as she almost does a complete back bend while still rocking out. Lawrence (Julian Brescia) is amazing on keys! Lawrence explains to Dewey that he is not "cool enough" to be in a rock-n-roll band, but by the end of the show he proved he was definitely a Rockstar. Freddy (Cameron Trueblood) on drums was astounding. His rhythm and demeanor blew me away! Tomika (Camille De La Cruz) has a voice that is so mature and astounding for someone her age, or any age for that matter. My jaw legitimately dropped as she sang "Amazing Grace" in the classroom to prove she was no backup singer; she was a singer. All the kids were incredibly talented, and the audience fell in love with each one of them.
Though the kids blew audiences away, the adults were great as well. Dewey (Janes) was so funny and had impeccable timing. He had many elements of the Jack Black, who originated the character in the movie, however he was still able to make the role his own. Janes was also able to slowly develop his character from a selfish star to a caring teacher, and it was quite endearing. Ned (Layne Roate), Dewey's best friend and roommate, was also great. As Roate entered the scene, I immediately noticed elements of Mark Cohen from RENT. He portrayed the best friend who gets walked all over and the boyfriend who is under the control of his girlfriend, and Roate did this effortlessly. Rosalie Mullins (Alison Cusano) did a great job of playing the very strict, no-nonsense principal of Horace Green. As the show progressed the audience got to experience her transformation as someone who has learned to be tough, when really, she just wants to experience life as everyone else does. Audiences were blown away by her voice in "Where Did the Rock Go?", as she reflects on how much she used to love rock-n-roll music, as opposed to the classical music she now teaches.
Audiences truly enjoyed School of Rock! The musical is incredibly entertaining for all audiences. It is a great treat to have School of Rock here in Jacksonville. The show will be at the Times Union now through Saturday April 20.