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Review: School of Rock - The Musical (Broadway)

When I walked into Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre to see School of Rock - The Musical, I hadn't seen the 2003 film (starring Jack Black) that inspired it. I decided to see the Broadway musical version based solely on two catchy musical numbers performed on NBC's Today show: "You're in the Band" and "Stick It to the Man."

I had a rough idea of the show's plot: a washed-up small-time rock musician ends up teaching a class of prep school elementary students and transforms them into a rock band. And that was all I really needed to know. It's not the story of School of Rock that's the draw, it's the kids.

The moment the audience meets the children, the kids absolutely steal the show. Standouts among the child cast are control-freak Summer (Isabella Russo), insecure geek Lawrence (Jared Parker), future fashion designer Billy (Luca Padovan), and shy Tomika (Bobbi Mackenzie) who turns out to have a very impressive hidden talent.

The kids aren't merely actors, they can sing, they can dance, and some of them play musical instruments (live during the show). Brandon Niederauer (as Zack) effortlessly plays the guitar, Evie Dolan (as Katie) rocks the bass, Dante Melucci (as Freddy) expertly taps the drums, and Jared Parker (as Lawrence) makes some awesome moves on the keyboard. The children's talent and incredible energy rivals that of most adult Broadway stars!

That isn't to say that the adult cast of School of Rock falls flat. Actually, it's quite the opposite. Alex Brightman (as Dewey Finn, the washed-up rocker) has just as much energy as the kids. He appears to have been cast in part based on his physical resemblance to Jack Black, but even without the resemblance, he is the perfect choice for this role. Brightman's Dewey is extremely likable and his chemistry with the kids is heartwarming. Sierra Boggess in the role of Rosalie, the buttoned-up prep school principal, is also a joy to watch, especially during her touching performance of "Where Did the Rock Go?"

Anna Louizos' School of Rock sets are a visual treat. They are rich, detailed, and authentic.

My mom and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at School of Rock, and we were not alone (based on the standing ovation given by the entire audience during the curtain call). Not only was I entertained, I was genuinely moved, to tears at more than one point, including during the kids' heart-wrenching ballad to their parents, "If Only You Would Listen."

While I wouldn't recommend this show for most children under eight years old (I don't think they'd really appreciate the story), older children and adults will most certainly be entertained. School of Rock is an ideal Broadway musical choice for a fun multigenerational family outing.

I left the theater with "Stick It to the Man" running in my head. And ready to add some brand-new Andrew Lloyd Webber songs to my musical theater playlist!

I did this in December 2015 in New York City,
New York, USA.

Jen (California, USA)*

* As a member of the press, Jen received two complimentary tickets to School of Rock - The Musical.

 Mom and me at School of Rock: The Musical