When my 11 year-old son asked me to take him to see School of Rock on Broadway, I was both surprised and thrilled. I haven’t taken him to a show since 2010, when I took my cue at Stomp, when his sensorial issues took over. It was a combination of being over stimulated and noise that were just too much for him.
But he loved the movie this show is based on – so much so that he’s watched it several times on Netflix. Somehow during the summer he took note of its pending Broadway arrival, as did I with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s name attached, and we both became determined to see it once it hit NYC. Still, I questioned his focus and ability to stay out late on a weekday night but went with an open mind.
If you haven’t seen the movie (and you should), it’s based on the Richard Linklater film starring Jack Black. Believe it or not, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes adapted it for the stage, yet his style somehow is perfect and the adaptation faithful and appropriate for film lovers like my son. He admitted during intermission that the reason the show was working for him was indeed that he knew the story inside out, and the play’s authenticity helped. I must also tell you that I caught glimpses of my son clapping to the music, composed by Webber himself, and he never once closed his eyes (to sleep). If you only knew the happiness I felt in these moments….
The main character is called Dewey Finn, a slightly edgy, scruffy musician who gets kicked out of his band at the beginning of the show. Lying in bed, feeling sorry for himself, he answers the phone to find a prep school looking for his roommate to come teach temporarily. Once in that position, which he talks himself into, he takes a class of kids in school uniform and turns them into rock stars, calling the classroom the School of Rock. What is seemingly a group of very intelligent children is also a group of extremely talented musicians. Zack is a brilliant guitarist, Tomika has a beautiful voice and even Summer, a feminist, can sing. But how long will it last before they are caught? It takes a Parents Visiting Night for the bubble to burst but there is a twist, which you won’t know if you haven’t seen the film.
But I owe much of this play’s success to Alex Brightman, who plays Dewey. He resembles Jack Black almost exactly, from his appearance to his voice, and he’s a really, really good singer and musician. Also Sierra Boggess, who plays the nerdy principal of Horace Green, is a pretty wonderful actress and singer. In general, though, it’s the kids who rule the show, though – they’re a very talented group.
While not perfect, I suspect the producers are still ironing out imperfections (clunky storylines, loud music are two examples), School of Rock is already a hit at the box office and I have a feeling it will be around for a while. I’m most grateful to the show for bringing my son back to Broadway after a long hiatus. (Today he’s downloading the soundtrack.)
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to facilitate this review but all opinions are my own.