SCHOOL OF ROCK- The Musical
Book by Julian Fellowes; Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Based on the Paramount movie written by Mike White
Dallas Summer Musicals
Directed by Laurence Connor
Choreographed by JoAnn M. Hunter
Musical Director: Darren Ledbetter
Music orchestrated by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Associate Director: David Ruttura
Associate Choreographer: Patrick O'Neill
Scenic Design by Anna Louizos
Costume Design by Anna Louizos
Lighting Design by Natasha Katz
Sound Design by Mick Potter
Hair Design by Josh Marquette
Dewey Finn- Rob Colletti (Merritt David Janes at certain performances)
Rosalie Mullins- Lexie Dorsett Sharp
Ned Schneebly- John Campione
Patty Di Marco- Emily Borromeo
Shonelle- Olivia Bucknor
Katie- Theodora Silverman
James- Cameron Trueblood
Sophie - Gabriella Uhl
Marcy- Alyssa Emily Marvin
Mason- Carson Hodge
Freddy- Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton
Tomika -Grier Burker
Zack- Vincent Molden
Billy -Huxley Westemeier
Lawrence- Theo Mitchell-Penner
Summer- Iara Nemirovsky
Doug/ Mr. Spencer- Tim Shea
Ms. Sheinkopf/Security Guard #1- Deidre Lang
Snake / Mr. Monneyham- Sinclair Mitchell
Stanley/ Mr. Williams- Jameson Moss
Gabe Brown / Mr. Hamilton- Patrick Clanton
Bob/ Mr. Sandford- Liam Fennecken
Mrs. Hathaway- Elyisa Jordan
Theo- Hernando Umana
Security Guard #2- Melanie Evans
Ensemble: Patrick Clanton, Kristian Espiritu, Melanie Evans, Liam Pennecken, Elysia Jordan, Sinclair Mitchell, Jameson Moss, Tim Shea, Hernando Umana.
Reviewed Performance: 8/15/2018
Reviewed by John Garcia, Senior Chief Theater Critic/Editor/Founder, THE COLUMN. Member, AMERICAN THEATRE CRITICS ASSOCIATION for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I am an ardent admirer of Andrew Lloyd Webber scores. From Joseph…Dreamcoat to Sunset Blvd to Phantom to Jesus Christ Superstar. Other scores like Cats and Starlight Express, eh…not so much. I remember reading in 2013-14 that Lord Webber had bought the film rights to the film comedy School of Rock that starred Jack Black to turn into a musical. My immediate reaction was, “eh.” I thought the film was funny but didn’t reach the level of “that has got to be a stage musical”. My first view of the show was when the cast performed on the 2016 Tony awards telecast. The production received four nods, including Best score, book, and musical. I watched the number, and overall it was pleasurable and enjoyable. But it didn’t move me to want to see it the very second, I landed at the big apple.
School of Rock is still running on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre but will be closing in January 2019. But a national tour has already started its journey and has now started classes at Dallas Summer Musicals at the Music Hall. Now was my chance to see and hear the full production.
The Scenic Design by Anna Louizos is mostly walls, backdrops, that float in or enter from the wings. They are heavily covered in bric and brac and props to show these walls are from a school hallway or classroom. Cement walls also come in to create the classroom. But when we are in the homes of the children or at Ned/Dewey/Patty’s apartment, this ominous back wall appears. Iron pipes, torn bricks, wood, a catwalk, all covered in hazy purple lighting. It looks out of place, like it was in a Matrix movie set, got shoved into the traveling tour truck by mistake, but they kept it anyway.
Natasha Katz’s lighting designs I fell in love with when I first saw her work on Broadway in Aida. But here something seems a little off. The show seems to stay in dark shadows or pockets of darkness all evening. Only when they were in the main classroom was when the lighting become bright. The color palette didn’t help either. It was mostly a somber palette of blues, pale pinks, some reds, and light beige. It was an odd color mixture for sure. Perplexing is what comes to mind. It wasn’t until the final scene is when we had some semblance of color.
Julian Fellowes book for School of Rock is quite funny with some hilarious one liners and comedy set ups. The writing for Dewey and the kids sizzles, crackles, and pops with comedy and purpose. Thu because the focus is zeroed in on Dewey and the students, the adult ensemble and supporting characters (Ned, Patty ,the parents and teachers), are left to almost fend for themselves. They hardly have any (if none) musical numbers of their own let alone solos or duets. They fade away like the Phantom’s mist in the liar.
The overall score is a patchwork of bland melodies that lay there lifeless like construction paper left on the floor in an arts and crafts classroom. It took eight numbers to get to the real first significant number that had energy, pizzazz, and an actual melody which was “You’re in the Band”. Another song “If Only You Would Listen” was a touching song of the kids trying to reach out to their always busy parents that -what else-ignore them. The lyrics do get a tad saccharine, but the message is there of adults just not hearing the desperate voices of their own children begging to be loved or listened to. Out the bulk of half baked numbers, there were some that stood out musically that had a rockin sound and sickening guitar licks that Eddie Van Halen would have joined in for a duet! These include the high-octane rock hits "In the End of Time”, "Stick It to the Man", and “School of Rock". In Act II the future president of the United States, but right now is the band manager, student Summer (Iara Nemirovsky) stills the show away from the boys and leading man as she leads her fellow students with the number “Time To Play” Her delicious comedic talents nail her characterization down wonderfully, but when she sings this number and holds that high soprano note for several measures, well that girl got an A+ from me!
Another female character also has a sizzling solo that Webber composed titled “Where Did the Rock Go?", which Is sung by Rosalie, the rigid, by the rules Principal. She is played to marvelous perfection by Lexie Dorsett Sharp. She transforms from the frozen, strict school Principal into a take no prisoners, full throttle Rocker chick like her mentor, Stevie Nicks. In a much earlier scene she displays her operatic range within her lovely soprano voice during music class by singing opera to the children as they play their instruments in "Queen of the Night".
Unfortunately, several of the adult supporting characters apparently lost the focus of both the book writer and composer because they either became a one note stock character, or had no solid, fulfilling solo or song, and/or did not give their characterizations enough substance and weight in the material. This is the fault of the book and score, not the actors. Nonetheless they still gave entertaining, pleasing performances, these include: John Campione as Ned Schneebly who is Dewey’s nerdish best friend that were in a rock band together, Emily Borromeo as Ned’s always nagging girlfriend Patty Di Marco, and Deidre Lang as school teacher Ms. Sheinkopf.
What does make this musical come alive was leading man Rob Colletti’s rock-o-licious performance as Dewey Finn and his gang of tiny metal heads who make one killer rock band!
All the kids are a mirthful riot to watch right out of the gate. It was a relief that they all were devoid of that cheesy kiddie theater camp style of acting that makes your teeth grind. These kids had remarkable sharp comedic timing and delivery, solid singing voices, and out of this world energy that made School of Rock come alive every single time they appeared on stage. However, it was difficult at times to understand them regarding diction. In spite of that the musical becomes a completely different show when the book and music switches focus to the students and Dewey, that’s when it has purpose, reason, emotional weight, connection to the material, and the musical blasts with vitality and awakens like a lion.
Pinning special honorable mention ribbons on the following kiddos for adding that special extra in their performances: Grier Burker as the quiet and shy Tomika, who later own becomes a vocal powder keg; Iara Nemirovsky as Summer, the gold star addict whose issues of being in control pay off; Vincent Molden as Zack, with his slick red hair, this kid can riff off a guitar like a rock god; Theo Mitchell-Penner as Lawrence, the awkward shy boy who burns the keyboards when he plays them; and Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton as Freddy, the kid who has to deal with a cold father at home, but is wickedly incredible on the drums.
But the glue that holds this entire production together by far is Rob Colletti’s performance as Dewey Finn. He doesn’t try in any way to impersonate or recreate Jack Black’s film performance, he instead builds from the ground up his own vision of Dewey, and it is a smashing original performance. Colletti doesn’t try to bang over your head the jokes or physical comedy, he doesn’t try to hammer into your skull ridiculous schtick like some local actors around town. Colletti allows the joke to land and do its job, and then he adds his facial expressions, a take, a beat, or a body movement, or an ad-lib, but he knows exactly which one to choose to give the joke that extra bump for another layer of laughter. That takes great inner skill and comedic craft to know when and where to do those things, and Colletti did all evening long. He possesses a terrific tenor vocal that allows him to go from Broadway ballad softness to Steve Perry rocker tenor belt! His chemistry with the kids is by far the best of the production. They connect and trust each other, Colletti has great fun with them and it shows, constantly throwing barbs at them. And let’s give him a standing ovation for that guitar playing! Colletti plays one bad a** guitar and those licks are so scorching hot I’m t surprised that the strings didn’t burn off. Colletti is the dazzling piece de resistance of this production.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock is a thoroughly enjoyable musical. Does it rank in my top five of Lord Webber’s works? No. But it certainly is much, much more entertaining than Starlight Express. The cool factor here is there are a slew of jokes that the adults will get when they bring the kiddos ( It is a family friendly musical). What elevates this musical to the wow factor is the remarkable work of Mr. Colletti and those tiny kids-who by the way play their own instruments on stage LIVE! Talk about a WOW factor! We just might be looking at some future rock stars!
SCHOOL OF ROCK PLAYS AT DALLAS SUMMER MUSICALS THROUGH AUGUST26, 2018 AT THE MUSIC HALL AT FAIR PARK
THEN AT BASS PERFORMANCE HALL STARTING AUGUST 28 – SEPTEMBER 2, 2018 AT BASS PERFORMANCE HALL
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX (July 30, 2018) – Broadway legend Andrew Lloyd Webber’s high-octane Broadway and West End hit School of Rock – The Musical is coming to North Texas. The hilarious new musical will premiere at the Music Hall at Fair Park August 15–26, 2018, presented by Dallas Summer Musicals and Broadway Across America. The tour will then head to Fort Worth where it will play at Bass Performance Hall August 28 – September 2, 2018 presented by Performing Arts Fort Worth.
Single tickets for the Dallas engagement of School of Rock – The Musical start at $20 (pricing subject to change) and are on sale at DallasSummerMusicals.org or by phone at 1 (800) 745-3000. They can also be purchased in person at the Music Hall at Fair Park Box Office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Orders for groups of ten (10) or more may be placed by calling (214) 426-4768 or emailing Groups@DallasSummerMusicals.org.
Single tickets for the Fort Worth engagement of School of Rock – The Musical start at $44 (pricing subject to change) and are on sale at www.basshall.com. To charge tickets by phone, call 817-212-4280 in Fort Worth; 1-877-212-4280 (toll