BWW Review: National Tour of SCHOOL OF ROCK Bounces Into OKC Broadway
Nominated for multiple Tony awards when it premiered on Broadway in 2015, the heartfelt and dynamic SCHOOL OF ROCK national tour stops at Oklahoma City's Civic Center Music Hall. Based on the hit movie starring Jack Black, this production strikes the right chord of cheeky humor (for both kids and adults) and earnest sentiment, topped off by a zesty score to keep everything moving.
After he is fired from his job, guitarist Dewey Finn who (rather illegally) impersonates his roommate and begins substitute teaching at a prestigious prep school in order to make some extra money. He stumbles upon a class of bright yet over-scheduled children ... at first Dewey simply coasts through his responsibilities, but when he discovers the youngsters' musical talent, he charts a new path that ends up changing all of their lives for the better.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (most famous for Broadway's longest running show PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) dives back to his roots for this show. Though nowadays he is thought of most for his sweeping romantic ballads, remember, this is the man who brought us JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, one of the first rock musicals. Webber's partner on this show is Julian Fellowes, most noted as the creator of the hit TV show Downton Abbey; his work here couldn't be farther from that period soap, showing the writer's versatility. Though some of the moments the adults are asked to perform may be a bit cliché, when he lets the kids step forward and shine, that's where this rocket of a show really takes off.
And shine these kids do! The first announcement assures the audience that these pint-sized prodigies are really playing their instruments: Phoenix Schuman (Zack) shreds his guitar, Theo Mitchell-Penner (Laurence) tickles his keys, Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton (Freddy) wallops his drums, and Theodora Silverman (Katie) thumps her bass...all with gusto and aplomb rivaling adults two or three times their age. And all the kids, including those instrumentalists listed, show off their vocal, dancing, and acting chops - particularly Ava Briglia (Summer), John Michael Pitera (Billy), Chloe Anne Garcia (Marcy), and Gianna Harris (Tomika). "You're In The Band" and "If Only You Would Listen" are two main highlights of the show, showing these young artists' youthful exuberance but also their emotional availability.
The adults in the cast don't let these kids walk all over them, though. Portraying the principal of the school, Lexie Dorsett Sharp perfectly straddles the line between rigid but caring, and her second act showstopper "Where Did The Rock Go?" offers her a chance to unleash her powerhouse voice and reveal her character's true creative urges. Matt Bittner's Ned and Emily Borromeo's Patty provide the perfect comic foils to Dewey, while the adult ensemble - playing a variety of parents and teachers - each find a moment to shine. But the main glue that holds the show together is Rob Colletti's Dewey. His character rarely leaves the stage, yet Colletti's energy rarely wavers. He takes a character whose moral choices aren't always top-notch, but imbues him with a humanity that makes us truly care for him, all the while belting to the rafters with his off-the-charts vocals.
Director Laurence Connor has shaped the material well, clarifying each joke with specificity, yet allowing the scene work to breathe with variety. JoAnn M. Hunter's choreography is inventive and energetic, bringing buoyancy to each moment for both the children and grownups.
The national tour of SCHOOL OF ROCK is a rollicking delight for the entire family, and a theatrical opportunity not to be missed. For tickets to OKC Broadway shows, visit www.OKCBroadway.com