School of Rock is a brand new musical based on the famous Paramount film written by Mike White, which starred Jack Black.
The musical follows Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. Completely disinterested in academic work, Dewey decides to create his own curriculum, turning his class into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band.
The stage musical is produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has composed 14 new songs to create a score, which also features all the original songs from the movie. School of Rock, with its sensational live kids’ rock band, is a loving testimony to the transforming power of music.
May the spirit of rock be with you!
Andrew Lloyd Webber has returned to the magnificent Winter Garden Theatre, for nearly 18 years (1992-2000) home to his now-and-forevermusical Cats. School of Rock won’t be leaving any time soon, of that I’m pretty certain. Exuberantly loud, high-spirited and upbeat, it’s a feel-good show for Boomers and, god-help-us, our grandchildren.
What a relief to see that an unlikely creative team—Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, veteran composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater (Leap of Faith)—successfully execute such a smart transfer of film to stage. This is one tight, well-built show: underscoring the emotional arcs (Dewey as both surrogate kid and parent; the students’ yearning to be heard); gently juicing the romantic subplot between Dewey and buttoned-up school principal Rosalie Mullins (sweetly starchy Sierra Boggess); and knowing when to get out of the way and let the kids jam. School of Rock has absorbed the diverse lessons of Rent, Spring Awakening and Matilda and passes them on to a new generation.
But it’s up to its leading man to set a tone that mixes unwashed hedonism with reassuring wholesomeness. One step too far in one direction and audiences may feel like posting an Amber Alert; oversell the sweetness, and diabetes threatens.
Mr. Black managed that balancing act beautifully. So, I am happy to report, does the hitherto unheralded Mr. Brightman. As Dewey — who impersonates his roommate, Ned (Spencer Moses), a substitute teacher, to land a job at the exclusive Horace Green prep school — Mr. Brightman never makes the mistake of trying to upstage his young co-stars; he gets down with, and brings out the best in, them in a performance as notable for its generosity as its virtuosity.The actor finds the charm in Dewey’s gung-ho clumsiness, as he secretly organizes his class into a battle-of-the-bands-worthy ensemble, but he doesn’t fetishize it. His character comes across, as he must, as a rock ’n’ roll nerd of limited talent but infinite passion. The kids warm to him because that passion feels so authentic it’s infectious.