I received two tickets to School of Rock due to my relationship with The Tampa Bay Bloggers and theirs with the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. However, all opinions are my own.
While it’s difficult to imagine School of Rock without Jack Black, Joan Cusack, or the budding newbie Miranda Cosgrove, School of Rock the Musical, has pulled it off.
My daughters, now in their 20’s, spent many hours watching the 2003 movie with my husband, who gladly played the part of guitar-playing, rock and roll loving social misfit Jack Black.
We’re pretty big fans of Jack Black in my house, and I have to admit our favorite role of his was probably Nacho Libre. (Please don’t hold it against me.)
In the movie and the musical, we see Jack Black, or Dewey, kicked out of his band, and going nowhere sponging off his best friend and his girlfriend.
We’re introduced to Dewey Finn with “When I climb to the Mountain of Rock,’ almost every young man’s fantasy about becoming a rock star. To keep from getting kicked out of his friend’s apartment, we see him stumble into a temporary job as a substitute teacher.
One of the fun things about the movie (and the musical) is agreeing with Dewey, who is incredulous that his new students have never heard of rock bands or rock songs. We gladly went along with this and educated our own daughters, somehow happy to know that they were learning about Smoke on the Water, AC/DC and other rock classics.
That music we loved hearing in the movie soundtrack is not in the musical.
However, I think I can safely say, if anyone’s going to pull off the musical score and make up for the lack of AC/DC, it would be Andrew Lloyd Webber. I thoroughly enjoyed his music performed live by the orchestra.
And Rob Colletti did a great version of Jack Black, aka Dewey, aka Mr. Sneagley, as did Rosalie, or Principal Mullins, played by Lexie Dorsett Sharp.
Once he makes it to the classroom and gets to hear the talent of the students — who he once took for “douchebags” — he rewards the students and the audience with “You’re in the Band.”
We get to hear the talent of the young cast as they sing, “If Only You Would Hear Me” as vignettes of glimpses into their lives show that their private-school-paying parents didn’t know them as well as they thought.
Stick it to the Man,” which plays into the musical two more times, is a catchy, fun explanation of what rock and roll is all about. This is one of the most fun and memorable songs from the musical, and the audience duly gets behind it.
The great thing about this feel-good musical — in addition to the amazing talent of the young cast, who plays all their own instruments — is that the new substitute teacher, who has never taken a child psychology class, let alone held a decent job, is the one to find the talents and individual strengths of each of his students.
Summer Hathaway, played by Ava Briglia (the old Miranda Cosgrove), is not a bossy tattle tale, but plays to her strengths as manager of the band.
Even Tomika, played by Gianna Harris, who doesn’t speak, is finally motivated to show her talent not just as a back up singer, but The Singer. And she proves her talent with Amazing Grace.
There are more great songs such as the funny “Math is a Wonderful Thing” where Dewey has to put his teaching style on display with the principal. But for me, the moment was Rosalie singing, ” Where Did the Rock Go” at The Road House after Dewey learns about her affinity for Stevie Nicks . The song is thoughtful and allows Lexie Sharp to show her true talent. To me it is reminiscent of “Where are You Christmas” by Faith Hill, from the The Grinch. But I admit I watched that movie a lot last month.
In all, we get to see the students and the teacher come together in a fulfilling final scene as Dewey finally vindicates himself, as well as fulfills his mission; teaching rock and roll to all, in what proves to be a great show for the family, especially one with pre-teens or teens.
School of Rock plays through Jan. 7 at the Straz Center for Performing Arts in Morsani Hall.