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BWW Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK is in Session at Fox Cities P.A.C.

BWW Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK is in Session at Fox Cities P.A.C.

SCHOOL OF ROCK opened at Appleton's Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on April 24 and will continue to play through April 29. This high energy, laugh-packed show is a treat for anyone ready to rock.

Based on the 2003 movie of the same name, SCHOOL OF ROCK brings the familiar story of Dewey Finn to the stage. By all accounts, Dewey is a loser. While he's a rock god in his own mind, in reality, he's the low man in a mediocre band. When he's kicked out of the band, he finds himself desperate to start a new group and compete against his former bandmates in an upcoming competition. But Dewey is low on funds, so when he intercepts a call offering his roommate a substitute teaching position, Dewey accepts the position and pretends to be his roommate. After a rocky start in teaching, Dewey realizes that the students have musical talent and decides that they will be his new band, secretly teaching them rock during the school day. However, along the way, both Dewey and the children learn unexpected lessons from each other.

Like the movie, the show offers a lot of laughs. While some of the jokes are familiar, others are new and unexpected. The show also has a terrific energy. While it starts a little slowly, SCHOOL OF ROCK is light-hearted, fast-paced, and never dull.

On the surface, SCHOOL OF ROCK seems dangerously ambitious. It features a rock band of children playing instruments live onstage, a first in musical theater. With a lesser cast, such a show could easily go off the rails, but in SCHOOL OF ROCK, the young cast is the show's greatest strength. As soon as the kids are on stage, the show comes alive. Each child is phenomenally and unbelievably talented. Not only do they play their instruments better than most professional, adult musicians, they also have charisma and charm.

In this performance, Merritt David Janes played Dewey. He is high energy, light on his feet, and has the sort of rock-star voice you'd expect in the role. His interactions with the children seemed natural, and he portrayed the growth of his character subtly and believably.

While the show is a delight to watch, it does have a few weak points. Attempts to add emotional weight fall flat. Compared to Andrew Lloyd Webber's other work, the music is also fairly unremarkable. One of the show's big numbers, "Stick it to the Man" sounds similar to P!nk's "So What," which works in the context of the show, but audiences might find themselves leaving the show inadvertently humming P!nk's song instead.

Still, SCHOOL OF ROCK remains a fun, energizing treat that rocks audiences to the core.

SCHOOL OF ROCK will play at Fox Cities P.A.C. through April 29. Tickets are still available.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

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