BWW Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center
Based on Richard Linklater's 2003 film of the same name, School of Rock follows Dewey Finn, a down-on-his-luck wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. When he discovers his students' musical talents, he enlists his fifth-graders to form a rock group and conquer the Battle of the Bands.
When it was announced that famed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was set to do a musical adaptation of the Jack Black comedy, I pretty much felt the same as everyone else, "strange choice". When one thinks of Andrew Lloyd Webber, we usually associate him with serious, big budget, sung-through musicals such as Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera. Though then again, he does appear to be going back to his roots with School of Rock by not only writing rock musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar), but also something family-oriented (Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). The Broadway production opened on December 6th, 2015 to some great critical reviews, and went on to receive 4 Tony Award nominations (including Best Musical).
In this musical adaptation, book writer Julian Fellowes honors the movie, but was able to dive deeper into the story, especially by putting the kids more in the spotlight. Not to mention that the score by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater does a great job of moving the story along. In fact, if you went into this show not knowing anything about it at all, you'd never guess that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote this score (and I mean that as a compliment). It just goes to show that if you have a vision for anything regardless of what you've done before, go for it.
Under the direction of Laurence Connor, he's able to keep the show moving through cinematic staging with a very energetic cast from top to bottom. Rob Colletti gives a performance that is both hilarious and heartfelt as Dewey Finn, who almost seems like a modern day version of Harold Hill from The Music Man as he poses as someone he isn't, and is able to form a band out of the students at Horace Green. Each of the kids in this show deserves their own special shoutout as they are all such quadruple threats. They sing, dance, act, and play their own instruments very well. Highlights include Ava Briglia as the high-achieving Summer; Gianna Harris (who offers a stunning rendition of 'Amazing Grace' in Act II) as the shy Tomika; Carson Hodges as super-smart Mason; Theo Mitchell-Penner as unconfident Lawrence; Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton as the boisterous Freddy; John Michael Pitera as flamboyant Billy; Tommy Ragen as the gruff and tough James; Theodora Silverman as the quiet, serious Katie; and Gabriella Uhl as Sophie. With some great supporting turns from Lexie Dorsett Sharp as the uptight Principal Rosalie Mullins, Matt Bittner as Dewey's longtime friend Ned Schneebly, and Emily Borromeo as Ned's demanding and domineering girlfriend Patty Di Marco.
With some excellent lighting designed by Natasha Katz, great rock songs, and a message of how much music can enrich our lives (especially children), School of Rock has something for audiences of all ages. There's also a very clever curtain call at the end of the show that you simply can't miss! This national touring production is currently playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center through December 3rd.
For more information regarding the tour, please visit: