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Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at Theatre South Playhouse

Orlando premiere of this energetic, entertaining, and eminently electric musical experiecnce

Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at Theatre South Playhouse

What happens when you take a popular comedy film starring Jack Black, add in new music by the king of musical theatre, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and put it on stage with a fantastically talented cast of young (and young at heart) actors? You get the Orlando premiere of SCHOOL OF ROCK presented by Theatre South Playhouse in Dr. Phillips - an energetic, entertaining, and eminently electric experience of epic proportions.

Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at Theatre South Playhouse
Like many musicals these days, SCHOOL OF ROCK takes its core story from the Paramount movie by Mike White of the same name but with a new book by Julian Fellowes (yes, that Julian Fellowes!), new music by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lyrics by Glenn Slater. It tells the story of down-on-his-luck rocker, Dewey Finn (Ronnie Gross) who is sponging off his best friend and former bandmate, Ned Schneebly (Aidan Wamsley) and his girlfriend Patty (Monica Toro Lisciandro) - freeloading in their apartment while he is "between" jobs. Desperate to make some money or else be kicked out, Dewey intercepts a call meant for Ned (a substitute teacher) and takes a job meant for him at the prestigious Horace Green School. Under the watchful eye of principal Rosalie Mullins (Jordan Grant) Dewey (aka Mr. Schneebly) stumbles through the days "teaching" his class until he realizes that the kids have a knack for music. This causes Dewey (Mr. S) to throw out all curriculum and form the kids into a proper rock band that can perform at the upcoming "Battle of the Bands" against Dewey's old band - No Vacancy. Hijinks ensue, flames of love are ignited between Dewey and Rosalie, parents (and the administration) find out about the band and get outraged, and it all concludes with a rocking performance and a lesson in individuality, following your dreams, and finding inspiration in the most unlikely of places.

Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at Theatre South Playhouse Andrew Lloyd Webber's new songs for SCHOOL OF ROCK may not be his most memorable, but they work well in the context of the musical (as does Glenn Slater's lyrics). Julian Fellowes book does a good job compressing the script of the movie into the 150-minute play while not sacrificing too many gags and funny moments. Directors Hillary Brook and Maddie Lane have done a fantastic job delivering a fast-paced, well-structured production. This is particularly impressive due to the large number of children in the cast and the added challenge of live music being played by said children on stage. Their staging uses the small (but mighty) space at Theatre South Playhouse to great effect - creating quick but effective transitions to keep the pace moving.

Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at Theatre South Playhouse With a cast of 14 children and 11 adults there isn't enough space to call out everyone's performance (though they all do a great job as an ensemble.) A few key standouts worth noting - of the kids Addy Pollzzie gives a brilliant performance as band manager Summer, Luke Robinson, as Zack, handles the guitar like a pro, Irelyn Silvestro not only shows off some killer facial expressions, but a killer Bass performance as well, Aiden Szubinski is fantastic on keys, and Jaden Le Rue does a great job as Freddy, on drums. As for vocals, Arianna Parrilla shows off a big, bold and beautiful voice as Tomika. The adults in SCHOOL OF ROCK do play second fiddle a bit to the marvelous kids, but there are many great performances of note. Aidan Wamsley as the browbeat Ned is hilarious, especially in his surprising 11-oclock outfit change. As Rosalie Mullins, Jordan Grant is a proper principal who hides a fun-loving, wild side. She has a lovely voice which I would have liked to hear more of. But in the leading role of Dewey, Ronnie Gross channels Jack Black to the extreme and pulls it off marvelously. His energy is infectious and he shows off a proper rock-level voice in his many numbers with the band (I am not sure how he has a voice left after one performance, let alone multiple!). Mr. Gross' chemistry with the students is great and when they all get together and play, it is musical magic.

Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at Theatre South Playhouse The SCHOOL OF ROCK creative team is also worth noting with Justin Smolik doing a great job as Musical Director (quite a feat with a musically complex show like this). The costumes by Hillary Brook are perfectly suited with some surprising and hilarious twists. Sterling Lovett's choreography is exciting and energetic and Julian Cardova and Wendell Rivera Diaz' Lighting and Sound add the perfect rock concert color and audio onto the stage.

Overall, Theatre South Playhouse's SCHOOL OF ROCK is a fun, frenetic and fantastic production. The energy of the cast is palpable, the production values top notch, and the talent on stage exciting to witness - creating an overall production that shouldn't be missed.

Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at Theatre South Playhouse

SCHOOL OF ROCK, presented by Theatre South Playhouse, runs through July 3rd . Tickets range from $32 to $42. Performances take place at Theatre South Playhouse which is located in The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, 7601 Della Drive, Suite #15, Orlando, FL 32819. Tickets can be purchased by visiting®id=78& For more information about Theatre South Playhouse visit

All Photos by Theatre South Playhouse

From This Author - Joseph Harrison

Joseph Harrison has been involved with the theatre in some form or fashion all his life. He holds a Journalism degree from the University of Georgia, but his true love is the theatre which he has been... (read more about this author)

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