BWW Review: It's Roctober at the Benedum with SCHOOL OF ROCK
Washed up and slowly approaching middle age, rocker Dewey Finn (Rob Colletti) is living on his best friend's couch, stuck in his glory days in a college band. He finds himself strapped for cash and soon devises a plan to win the Battle of the Bands, enlisting, of course, the famous School of Rock band, which is comprised of prep school children rocking gnarly licks, riffing vocal solos, and pounding drum beats.
Conceived from the 2003 film starring Jack Black, School of Rock opened on Broadway in 2015 to the tune of four Tony Award nominations, including Best Score by composing legend Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musical follows closely the plot of the movie, using both original songs from the movie score and infused with new upbeat hits. It allots opportunities for the children to shine, leaving enough space for the adult actors, especially Dewey, to have substantial roles as well.
Having just been kicked out of his band and having his best friend's girlfriend demanding rent, Dewey leaches onto the opportunity to teach a class at a prestigious preparatory school, paying $950 per week; except this opportunity wasn't exactly meant for him. Dewey impersonates his best friend, who the position was actually for.
The antics do not stop there. The irresponsible Dewey is wildly under qualified to teach, let alone at this school, but all of that changes when he realizes his class has musical talent. It is then that he stops the endless days of recess the kids have been having and starts the days of band practice. All of this, mind you, is going on behind the back of the stalwart principal Rosalie Mullins (Lexie Dorsett Sharp).
"You're in the Band" is the first number where the children begin to take their talent center stage, substituting a piano for keys, a cello for bass, and cymbals for, well, more cymbals and drums. It is electrifying, and, for me, drew me into the show more. Too often kids are overlooked in shows, Annie being the exception, but School of Rock puts the children front and center...when the selfish Dewey isn't there.
For the entire cast, the vocals were never all in sync. Some sharp and flat notes from the kids to the adults rang out over the course of the show, but as Dewey makes all, even the strict Rosalie, realize, the music inside is what matters. The passion and conviction of the talent on stage will always make up for a bad note or rock screech, if you can hear them over the blasting amps!
The superficial comedy is happy-go-lucky for the most part, inviting in deeper moments only to be quickly passed over, like the song "If Only You Would Listen." (Think "Soul of a Man" and "Not My Father's Son" from Kinky Boots, except without much backstory and depth, without the tears, and without much revisiting later in the show.) This show had the chance to explore the thinly veiled emotional attributes it elicits, but in order to create a broader-demographic blockbuster, these emotions had to be touched upon lightly and turned into a rocking tune fit for the top of Mount Rock.
A rock concert fit for children in a venue vested in the arts; there really isn't a better way to sum up School of Rock.
To see or not to see score: 5/9; Approved Show
Photo Credit: School of Rock Original London Cast. Photo by Tristram Kenton