School of Rock

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: (left to right) Alex Brightman, Dante Melucci & Evie Dolan. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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SCHOOL OF ROCK
Book by Julian Fellowes
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Directed by Laurence Connor
Choreographed by JoAnn M. Hunter
Winter Garden Theatre
1634 Broadway at 50th Street
(212-239-6200), www.schoolofrockthemusical.com/

 

By David NouNou

Having not seen the 2003 movie School of Rock and knowing very little about it (other than it was a huge hit for Jack Black) definitely gave me a leg up to enjoy this vastly entertaining musical. For me, it was seeing an original musical and it’s a rock-ass thrill. Adding to that thrill is the music by Andrew Lloyd Webber (longtime favorite) going back to his rock roots of Jesus Christ Superstar, and the book is by Julian Fellows of “Downton Abbey” fame. Who would have thought that these two “very proper” Englishmen would give us a most compelling rock musical of this generation?

Like Matilda, it is a child that tries to make sense of the outside world and fit in it. Dewey Finn (Alex Brightman) is not a little girl and certainly not a child; he is more akin to Peter Pan, the child that doesn’t want to grow up. Dewey is a misfit. He has been kicked out of his rock band; he’s despondent, and lives in the home of a former bandmate, Ned Schneebly (a substitute teacher) and his girlfriend Patty. Dewey owes them a lot of back rent. Patty has had enough of his slovenliness and wants him out, until one day a call comes for Ned and is intercepted by Dewey. The call is from staunch Principal Rosalie Mullins (Sierra Boggess) for a substitute teacher at the prestigious Horace Green Prep School. Needing money, Dewey goes for the job posing as Ned.

Dewey is confronted by children who come from privilege and overachieving parents who have no clue as to who their children are and what they can actually accomplish. This becomes a learning lesson for both. Dewey gets to learn about the kids and himself; the kids learn to abandon discipline and overcome their insecurities. He has to train them to fulfill his dream in competing in the “Battle of the Bands.” The two become co-dependent and both grow, learn and mature in the process.

I would probably say that the most daunting task in originating this musical was to find the proper Dewey. You couldn’t just bring a Jack Black imitator; you had to bring a Dewey that can make the character real for the stage. After all he is the loser. However, he has to have enough likability, charm and charisma to be able to win the audience over and root for him. This task has fallen into the hands of Alex Brightman.

I hate to use the term overnight star, because that term on Broadway is so ephemeral and overused. Mr. Brightman has paid his dues and has to his credits roles in Wicked, Big Fish, as well as Matilda. He is a person that should be noticed in the future, and come awards time next spring, he has to be recognized.

Earlier this spring, Sierra Boggess was in the abysmal musical It Shoulda Been You and previously was enchanting as Christine in Mr. Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of the Opera. Although she has the beautiful, haunting song “Where Did the Rock Go?” in Act II and learns to defrost, her Principal Mullins is a thankless role.

As for the children, they are all perfection and they actually play their musical instruments and are versatile performers in acting, singing and dancing. Laurence Connor, who directed the current version of Les Miserables has tapped into a much lighter venue (rock comedy) he keeps things constantly moving and never allows the children to be annoying or cloying. He respects them and gives each one of them a distinct personality and we get to know them as individuals.

In the end, it is Julian Fellows (book), Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Glenn Slater (lyrics) who are the real rock stars of School of Rock. Without them, we wouldn’t have had this infinitely delightful head-banger.

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published December 18, 2015
Reviewed at performance on December 17, 2015

 

School of Rock

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: Alex Brightman & Sierra Boggess. Photo: Matthew Murphy

School of Rock

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: Alex Brightman & the adult ensemble. Photo: Matthew Murphy

School of Rock

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: Alex Brightman & the kid band. Photo: Matthew Murphy

School of Rock

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: (left to right) Evie Dolan, Alex Brightman & Brando Niederauer. Photo: Matthew Murphy

School of Rock

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: Sierra Boggess. Photo: Matthew Murphy

School of Rock

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: The children’s ensemble & Sierra Boggess. Photo: Matthew Murphy

'SCHOOL OF ROCK': The children's ensemble. Photo: Matthew Murphy

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: The children’s ensemble. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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