Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
School of Rock - The Musical
Also see Garrett's review of Dot
The story follows Dewey (a dynamic Rob Colletti), whose attempts to make it big in the music business are thwarted by his inability to hold a steady job or to even pay rent to his pal Ned (a lovable Matt Bittner), with whom he is living. Ned's girlfriend Patty, portrayed with abandon by Emily Borromeo, would much prefer the loafer to move out and find a real job. Dewey's latest opportunity to make something of himself comes when he adopts Ned's persona to become a substitute music teacher at Horace Green, a prestigious private school run by Rosalie Mullins (a delightful Lexie Dorsett Sharp). Unbeknownst to Principal Mullins, Dewey begins to change the curriculum to cater to his own interest in forming a rock group to enter in an upcoming battle of the bands. Before the final curtain falls, Dewey and his students will achieve a truly amazing mutual transformation.
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has done an admirable job of adapting his sensibilities to a legitimate rock score. Though this music may not be his best work, it includes some songs that will stay with you long after you have left the theatre. The book by Julian Fellowes does not stray far from the original film, but it does, unfortunately, miss some opportunities to explore sentimental and poignant moments that might have added some heft to a somewhat light storyline. A brief scene involving the children and their overbearing families only gives us a glimpse of the pressures exerted by these helicopter parents.
Under the capable direction of Laurence Connor, the cast meets and sometimes exceeds expectations. Rob Colletti pays wonderful tribute to the character created by Jack Black, while contributing his own interpretative touches. Lexie Dorsett Sharp's stunning soprano is only matched by her comedic timing. Ms. Sharp also has one of the more touching moments of the show with her song, "Where Did the Rock Go?" The true stars, however, are the children. One cannot deny the power children (both characters and young actors) have to make a show a hit, be it Oliver!, Annie, or more recently, Matilda. Each of the young people in this show has his or her own personality that shines through, and the realization that they are all actually playing their own instruments only heightened the love the audience gave these youngsters at the performance I attended. It would be hard to single out any one or two of these actors; they work as a cohesive unit and steal hearts as a collective.
Anna Louizos' scenic design makes for some impressively effortless transitions. Lighting design by Natasha Katz contributes effective moods as well as achieving a true rock concert feel near the end of the musical. JoAnn M. Hunter had previously done more concert staging than musical choreography, and there is more jumping around than dancing in this show, but the energy level stays unquestionably high.
School of Rock is one of those shows that one might approach with a jaded eye, thinking it is just another calculated movie adaptation, but this one has something more to offer. Whether it is Dewey's humor, the young actors' virtuosity, or the way they all rock together, there is much here to enjoy in this archetypal story of the rebel who "sticks it to the man."
School of Rock - The Musical is presented by SunTrust Broadway, Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St. Durham, NC 27701 through December 3rd, 2017. Tickets can be purchased online at www.DPACnc.com, www.ticketmaster.com, or the Ticket Center at DPAC in person or by phone at 919-680-2787. For more information on the tour, visit schoolofrockthemusical.com.
Composer: Andrew Lloyd