School of Rock - The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages - Theatre Review

By Kathy Flynn

School of Rock - The Musical
The cast of the School of Rock Tour.
© Matthew Murphy.

The kids are the stars of the show in this lightweight but fun musical featuring 14 new songs from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Dewey Finn is a loser. Overweight and underemployed and mooching off his best friend Ned, whose girlfriend is fed up and not having it anymore. And who can blame her? She wants Dewey to either contribute rent or get out, which isn't an unreasonable request.

Fired from his band and desperate for money, Dewey intercepts a call for Ned offering a substitute teaching job at prestigious Horace Green Academy, and in he strolls, an hour late with absolutely nothing to offer. When he overhears the students playing classical music he realizes that they too have the spirit of music inside them, and he dreams up a plan to turn them into a rock band to compete in the upcoming Battle of the Bands.

At first, it's almost uncomfortable watching Dewey manipulate these kids, but once the kids start to loosen up and enjoy themselves, everything starts to gel and the play finally comes alive. The kids take the spotlight with "You're in the Band," where they first pick up their instruments and learn what they can do, and Dewey's deception takes a backseat to the growth and freedom that the students start experiencing. "If Only You Would Listen"  is a genuinely touching number where the kids' personal lives briefly take center stage.  "Stick it to Man" is the showstopper, where the kids fully embrace their talent and absolutely shine on stage.

School of Rock - The Musical
Theodora Silverman and Rob Colletti in the School of Rock Tour.
© Matthew Murphy.

The joyful exuberance that the kids bring to their roles is what really saves this production from mediocracy. They are so fun to watch and each of the kids is a standout performer, particularly Grier Burke who plays shy Tomika, Vincent Molden as guitar shredding Zack, Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton as Freddy,  Theodora Silverman as Katie, and Theo Mitchell-Penner as Lawrence the nerdy keyboard player.

School of Rock's Dewey Finn is so imbued with the spirit of Jack Black, who played Finn in the 2003 movie, that it's hard for anyone else to wholly own the role. Rob Colletti seems to be trying a little too hard to be Jack Black at first, but once he is with the kids he fully embodies the role. He brings a strong physicality along with serious vocal chops to the part.

The primary missteps in the story are with the adult females. The subplot making the school principal Ned's love interest is as unnecessary as it is implausible. And I wish Ned's girlfriend Patty had a bit more dimension, as the character is needlessly uptight and shrewish. But in School or Rock everything is played in broad strokes; there's not a lot of subtlety going on here. 

Theo Mitchell-Penner in the School of Rock Tour.
© Matthew Murphy.

School of Rock is a great family outing, funny and uplifting and showing the power that music has to transform all of our lives.

School of Rock - The Musical opened on Broadway in 2015 and was nominated for 4 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, and Best Leading Actor in a Musical. It was awarded the 2017 Oliver Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.

School of Rock - The Musical is at the Hollywood Pantages through May 27th.

Posted By Kathy Flynn on May 04, 2018 01:01 pm | Permalink