“School of Rock”: Noisy but Nice
by Cynthia Citron
I’ve just spent two and a half hours in the “School of Rock” and I’m exhausted! After all, how can you watch a fantastic cast of 34 running and jumping and dancing and singing and climbing on the scenery without feeling as if you’ve just run a marathon? Or have been swept away in a tsunami of energy…
“School of Rock” is a musical based on the successful 2003 movie that was written by Mike White and starred Jack Black as the frustrated guitarist. But you’ll never guess who wrote the book for the musical! Would you believe the very conservative English gentleman who created the tradition-bound world of “Downton Abbey”—Julian Fellowes?
But Fellowes was not alone. His fellows on this grand musical adventure include acclaimed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyricist Glenn Slater, director Laurence Connor, and 12 of the most amazing singing/dancing/ musician/actor kids since the golden days of MGM. All presided over by the bouncing, booming Rob Colletti who, serving as a substitute teacher in their posh preparatory school, introduces them to the glories of rock music.
Having been dumped from the band No Vacancy, he fakes his identity and acquires the job as a substitute teacher. But when he is expected to teach the students real subjects, like history and science and math, he panics and, like Harold Hill in “The Music Man”, decides to teach them the subject he knows everything about: rock music! With guitars and a piano instead of 76 trombones.
Discovering that they are all gifted singers and eager to expand their musical skills, he decides to form them into a band that will be able to compete in an upcoming contest. He chooses them in individual auditions, each audition ending with a triumphant bellow: “You’re in the band!”
He drills them ceaselessly and urges them on with pithy platitudes, which he delivers in song. And here Colletti demonstrates what it takes to be a star. From the opening number, “I’m Too Hot for You”, which he sings to the blaring music of No Vacancy (the band that has just fired him) to the 20th scene’s Finale, which he sings with the full company, he is almost never off-stage and he almost never stops singing. He is phenomenal.
As he transforms the kids from a gloomy bunch of social misfits into a happy, harmonious, and unified band, however, he learns that most of them have parents that don’t “parent” them very supportively. The parents are outraged that their kids are wasting their time in a band. Which prompts a confrontation by the kids and the plaintive song “If Only You Would Listen”, followed by the rip-roaring resolve of Colletti and the kids as they bounce through “Stick It to the Man.”
Eventually, the parents and the stodgy faculty members come around, and the Horace Green School is renamed “The School of Rock.”
In addition to their superior skills in singing and dancing,all the kids have had multiple appearances acting on stage and playing their own musical instruments, as they do in this production. Their music is enhanced by the addition of a small orchestra of grown-up rock artists who provide back up and appear onstage from time to time in clouds of red and blue smoke to play numbers of their own.
The creative scenic and costume designs of Anna Louizos, whose detailed settings evolve from classrooms to the assembly hall to the faculty lounge with the instantaneous flick of a panel or drop from the rafters, also enhance the production.
And it certainly adds to the ambiance of this posh school setting that it takes place in the elegant auditorium of the Pantages Theater, where it will continue to play Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 1 and 6:30 p.m. through May 27th. There will also be performances at 2 and 8 on Thursday, May 24th and only the 1 p.m. matinee on Sunday, May 27th.
The Pantages Theater is located at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, and you can purchase tickets at the box-office from 10 am to 6 p.m. on Mondays, from 10 am to 8:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. on Sunday. Or call Ticketmaster at 1(800) 982-2787 during any 24-hour period.