School of Rock

Theater, Musicals Winter Garden Theatre , Midtown West Until Sunday December 31 2017
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 (Photograph: Matthew Murphy)
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Photograph: Matthew Murphy
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School of Rock

School of Rock: Theater review by David Cote

Ever see the pitch-perfect 2003 Jack Black comedy School of Rock? Then you know what to expect from the musical version: fake substitute teacher Dewey Finn frenetically inspiring his charges to release their inner Jimi Hendrix; uptight preppy tweens learning classic riffs; and the band’s pivotal, make-or-break gig, with their overbearing parents watching in horror. We expect cute kids in uniform, a spastic Dewey and face-melting riffs—along with heart-tugging family stuff. It worked for the movie, and wow, does it work on Broadway, a double jolt of adrenaline and sugar to inspire the most helicoptered of tots to play hooky and go shred an ax. For those about to love School of Rock: We salute you.

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.

You’d have to have zero sense of humor about pop to not enjoy Webber’s jaunty pastiche score, which sneaks elegant melodies in among the boilerplate stadium stompers. He even gets Boggess to trill the famous high Cs from The Magic Flute’s “Queen of the Night Aria” to class up the joint. In general, the mostly English team pulls off the American humor and snark but also sharpens the desire to rebel against hidebound institutions (no surprise that the Brits get private—er, public—school misery). The parents are drawn in broad but confident strokes, from the corporate dad glued to his smartphone to the gay fathers pressuring their adopted princess to succeed.

But the secret weapon and glue holding it all together is an insanely winning, supernova turn by Alex Brightman as Dewey. Zooming beyond Black’s unavoidable manic bluster to something tender and vulunerable, Brightman is a frenzied Pied Piper who turns out to need the kids’ approval more than they need his. And the younger performers don’t disappoint: Brandon Niederauer as rhythm-guitar prodigy Zack, Evie Dolan as bassist Katie, Bobbi MacKenzie as solo belter Tomika and adorkable Jared Parker as keyboard wizard Lawrence. All have a bright future. School’s in—forever.—David Cote

Winter Garden Theatre (Broadway). Book by Julian Fellowes. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Glenn Slater. Directed by Laurence Connor. With Alex Brightman, Sierra Boggess. Running time: 2hrs 25mins. One intermission.

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote    

By: David Cote

Posted:

Venue name: Winter Garden Theatre
Contact:
Address: 1634 Broadway
New York
10019
Cross street: between 50th and 51st Sts
Transport: Subway: C, E to 50th St; N, Q, R to 49th St; 1 to 50th St
Price: $59–$145
Event website: http://schoolofrockthemusical.com
To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

Average User Rating

4 / 5

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Julie S
tastemaker

This fantastic musical is based on the 2003 film with the same name. If you have seen the film you will probably be comparing the lead actor's interpretation of Dewey Finn to the unforgettable way Jack Black brought this crazy character to life on the big screen. Surprisingly enough, you will not be disappointed. The musical very closely follows the film with some slight variations to adapt to pop culture and current events in 2016. The cast, especially the very young children are all super talented, and engaging. All of the child actors are expertly singing and playing the instruments. This is truly a feel good musical. 

Erik A

I'll be honest, I went into this with low expectations.  Wow was I wrong!  The kids in the show literally ROCK!  The cast is so talented and bursting with energy, you can't help but smile, cheer and headband along to the tuneful score performed expertly by the cast of adults and youngsters.  Alex Brightman as Dewey explodes with energy on stage and finds the right balance of honoring Jack Black but not doing an impression.  If you enjoyed the movie, you'll love the show.  Some of your favorite songs from the film come to life on stage along with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Don't miss it!

Maria M
tastemaker

While many Broadway shows that are created based on a movie can be a flop, School of Rock does not follow suit to that. Andrew Lloyd Weber stayed as true to the movie as one could do, while keeping it fun and fresh. Though the beginning of the show is a little slow, once the kids come into the play it is great and entertaining. The four kids who are in the band with Dewey Finn actually play the instruments live, and they are so incredibly talented. So are the rest of the kids - they continually make you laugh throughout the entire show. This show is great for kids and adults (there is some humor that kids won't really understand, nothing too risque but it makes you feel like you're not at a kid's show). 

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