Book by Julian Fellowes
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Director Laurence Connor
Photos Matthew Murphy
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Having neither seen the movie nor read the media release ensured that I went in with fresh eyes to this production of School of Rock.
Dewey Finn is an unintelligent, unemployed, overweight, lazy, tardy manboy whose only dream in life is to be a rockstar. Even though he’s a talented and passionate guitarist, he’s just been kicked out of the band that’s set to enter The Battle of The Bands. He’s behind in the room rent that he pays to Ned Schneebly and Patti Di Marco and is in need of money.
Dewey takes a phone call from the principal of the prestigious Horace Green prep school. She wants to offer Ned a relief teacher’s job that pays $950 per week. Dewey’s eyes light up, he accepts the position and pretends to be Ned.
Dewey soon realises that the class is proficient in playing classical music and sees the potential of turning the students into rock musicians. He takes them from Baroque to Deep Purple, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.
The backstories of the students are revealed and we discover that all of the rich parents are control freaks and the kids gratefully release their anger and frustration when they play rock music. At the same time, Dewey turns from self-focus to bringing out the best in his new band and they enter The Battle of the Bands.
In this production, Brent Hill is totally engaging as the initially irritating and eventually endearing Dewey, and his stage presence when singing and playing is powerful. As the prim, proper and officious Principal Rosalie Mullins, Amy Lehpamer is outstanding and her versatility in singing in both opera and pop styles is impressive. However, I was expecting that, at some point, the school ma’am glasses and sensible shoes would come off, the hair would come down and she would rock out some Stevie Nicks.
Focus was pulled from the solid, supporting adult cast by the twelve eminently talented child performers. At the beginning of the performance, a voice recording by Andrew Lloyd Webber reminded us that all of the children would be really playing those instruments. Child Welfare requires two casts of child actors so I assume that the other cast is just as compelling and talented as the one that I saw.
Anna Louizos’ set design that consists of flies and wheel-on flats and a multitude of other items allows for rapid scenes changes while creating the solid, fixed look of wood paneling in a conservative, traditional school. It’s also good to see a real orchestra pit. Under Laurence Connor’s direction, the show is allowed to flow while maintaining intensity and build.
It’s apparent that some changes would have been made to the 2003 film to make it more current but the tale of redemption, the inspiration and freedom are timelessly relevant.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s departure from his usual style is refreshing and the rebellious Stick It to The Man becomes a recurring anthem for the kids. The more recent corporate and social concepts of diversity and inclusion are exemplified in You’re In The Band.
School of Rock at the Capitol Theatre provides a rousing, inspirational, uplifting, entertaining and even psychologically educational experience that’s worth putting at the top of your to-see list. I loved it.