Highly Recommended

Reviewed by: R.P. Alberto

It is great to see a composer getting back to his or her roots.  Though Andrew Lloyd Webber has spent the last quarter of a century writing some of the most romantic scores for musical theater, including The Phantom of The Opera, Sunset Blvd, The Woman In White and Aspects of Love, it is rock and roll that shaped this composer’s soul.  

Webber’s early works with lyricist Tim Rice (Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus  Christ Superstar and Evita) proved how great storytelling is heightened using rock as a template.   Sir Andrew’s latest blockbuster, School of Rock, adapted from the 2003 film starring Jack Black, proves how comfortable this composer is with the genre.

In adapting School of Rock from film to play Webber enlisted Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellows and two of his Love Never Dies collaborators, Glenn Slater as lyricist and Laurence Conner to direct.   The result is a smash hit on Broadway, which opened in 2015 at the Winter Garden theatre, more recently London and now in a near exhilerating National Tour in the United States.

The stage adaptation mirrors closely to the film where a case of intentional mistaken identity takes a former boy band rocker Dewey Finn, who is hired as a substitute teacher at a fifth grade prep school, and discovers that music is the universal bridge between adult and child.

The cast of this tour is fantastic, lead by Rob Colletti as Dewey Finn who has an innate connection with the child actors he interacts with.  This adolescent quality of Mr. Colletti allows for a more sincere emotional connection and the audience is instantly cheering for his character to succeed.  Equally as engaging is Matt Bittner as Dewey’s longtime friend and ex-bandmate Ned, who has an engaging stage presence and quick comic reflexes which are paired perfectly with his onstage girlfriend Patty, played by a ferocious Emily Borromeo.  Lexie Dorsett Sharp does a fine job as Dewey’s love interest Rosalie in what is arguably the most underwritten role in the musical.  

But it is not the adults fans of this show come to see, it is the children. Make no mistake, this is where the show ignites with an emotional fervor, aided by JoAnne M. Hunters specific choreography.  Phoenix Suman (Little Zack) on guitar, Ava Briglia (Tomika) band manager/vocals, Theodroa Silverman (Katie) on bass and Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton on drums all prove that their classical roots have formed the the maturity needed to rock out.

However it is behind the spectacle of watching children create music that is where the soul of School of Rock lies.  It is in fact a lesson in now important the arts are in shaping the people we are today.  Without having access to music, theatre, sports and other extra curricular activities that challenge the creative spirit of a human, we are left with little to inspire and transform.  Music and the arts allows us to express ourselves in ways no other medium does, and in that expression comes in-reinvention, which Dewey now embodies.

School of Rock runs through November 19 at the  Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago.  Tickets are available at all BIC box offices, at all Ticketmaster retail locations, by calling the Broadway in Chicago Ticket Line at 800-775-2000 or by going to www.BroadwayInChicago.com

For more information visit Theatre in Chicago’s School of Rock page: