The much awaited School of Rock (The Musical) opened the other night at the cavernous Winter Garden Theater on Broadway and if you love kids, have percussion proof eardrums and don’t mind a whacky Jack Black look-alike hop all over the stage you are going to have yourself a Helluva good time.
This rock musical, which first came our way in a movie a couple of years ago and did in fact star Jack Black, tells the story of a recently fired guitar player named Dewey who’s in desperate need of money. He’s hired as a substitute teacher at a local high school run by a nutty principal played by Sierra Bogess who, when she hears he’s planning to turn his history class into a music school, tries to suppress Dewey’s master plan.
Dewey then decides that with 15 or so kids in his class there must be few that can play instruments and thinks that it might be a good idea to get them all involved in music and to enter the ensemble in a rock concert called The Battle of the Bands. Even you can figure out who finally wins that contest. Also along for the ride are Spencer Moses as his nerdy good friend and his girlfriend Mamie Paris who both put a little laughter into the proceedings.
Now, forgetting the somewhat obvious plot, it’s Alex Brightman (no relation to Sarah as far as I know) in the role of Dewey who just goes wild for almost all of the two hour fast-paced show. You will compare him to Jack Black from that movie and considering the challenge does a superb job prancing, singing, strumming and in general going nuts trying to organize the bevy of kids into a rock band.
Children in Broadway shows sometimes turn me off, but this band of newly aspiring actors, actresses and musicians are really quite good. 4 or 5 of them including the drummer, a keyboard player and a guitar player are way better than you could possibly expect from 9 - 11 year olds and, as we are told at the outset, they are actually playing the instruments and not just pretending while another band backstage is actually doing the work.
Some of the new songs are brilliant (notice I said not all since there are many numbers that are repetitive) and would you believe have mostly been written by Andrew Lloyd Weber. It’s not Phantom quality but what is? Julian Fellowes the sole writer of Downton Abbey, wrote the book for this show and The Really Useful Theater Company and their members have a lot to do with the hoped for success of this show.
So grab the kids, especially those who love to play instruments, and get on down to the Winter Garden. It’s noisy, it’s full of life and you’ll be able to rock all night after you see it. School of Rock like all of its schools around the country, including some here in the East, really rocks!