BWW Review: SCHOOL OF ROCK at the Paramount - A Muffled, Mugging, Mess ... With Cute Kids
Say what you want about Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber but at least he's consistent. Consistently borrowing from others as is evident in the most recent offering from the Paramount Theatre, "his" musical version of the 2003 movie "The School of Rock". And while it has adorable kids, absolutely shredding it with their vocals and musical chops on stage, it also has utterly forgettable and repetitious songs (at least the ones actually written by Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater) and a lead who takes mugging to a whole new, annoying level.
The book from Julian Fellows follows the movie written by Mike White at every point. Dewey Finn (Merritt David Janes) is a lazy, lay-about who's just been kicked out of his band, fired from his job and is about to be kicked out of his apartment until a substitute teaching job at a prestigious private school lands in his lap when the phone call comes in for his roommate and he takes it, posing as his roommate. With no actual teaching credentials, he soon finds that his class has a bunch of kids who can sing and play a variety of musical instruments and so he forms them into a band so he can win the local "Battle of the Bands". But he has to keep it secret from the school and the parents and thus hijinks and hilarity ensue.
The movie works because it had Jack Black who was your typical Jack Black but also didn't go too far overboard. Here we have Janes who is completely overshadowed by the kids and so he overblows and mugs every moment and bit to the point of making them their own production. While the kids are super talented and obviously taught diction and enunciation, Janes has apparently been taught to scream unintelligibly and that broader and louder is funnier. (Which it is not.) The school Principal played by Lexie Dorsett Sharp has one song in the show and does quite well showing that the adults in the show can sing but then we're back to Janes yelling.
The show itself is muddled and rushed, filled with gay and fat jokes and with songs that move nothing along but repeat ad nauseum in order to fill time. (How many times can you rhyme a line with the same line repeated and call it a song?) And I have to question that it says it's written by Webber and Slater (or rather says new music from Webber) since there are songs from the movie (and really the only good ones in the show) that are not credited with their original writers, Jack Black, Warren Fitzgerald, Mike White and Sammy James Jr. I guess that's not important anymore?
The kids in the show, Leanne Parks, Jacob Moran, Alyssa Emily Marvin, Dylan Trueblood, Camille De La Cruz, Cameron Trueblood, Mystic Inscho, Sammy Dell, Julian Brescia, Sami Bray, and Gabriella Uhl, are outstanding. Crystal clear vocals, actually playing and killing it on their musical instruments and thoroughly likable. And if all you need is cute kids showing talent to thrill you then this show could be for you. It seemed to be for much of the audience. I prefer to have good music and story in my musicals as well and a lead who can carry it.
The show does quite well if you're not that picky or discerning, which is why it lasted on Broadway so long. But I want more. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "School of Rock" at the Paramount an "only got this high of a rating due to the kids" MEH-. But I will say that the 9-year-old I was with liked it. But even she said she was disappointed with the lead.
"School of Rock" performs at the Paramount Theatre through May 19th. For tickets or information visit Seattle Theatre Group online at www.stgpresents.org.