By Laurel Busby
“School of Rock” is a bouncy, appealing musical that captures the warmth and music-loving spirit of the Jack Black movie.
Lead Rob Colletti as Dewey doesn’t fully recapture Black’s penchant for intense lunacy in the touring production that plays at the Pantages through May 27. But Colletti does have a pleasing singing voice and an inviting demeanor as the frustrated rock guitarist whose band has kicked him out and whose roommates are threatening to do the same.
The dozen child actors star with Colletti as Dewey’s new class when in desperation he accepts a long-term substitute-teaching job in his roommate’s name. Together, they are uniformly winning, enthusiastic and filled with energy.
As young students at an elite private school, they are sometimes dubious of their new teacher, who is initially a disaster with no interest in teaching them anything. Yet once Dewey learns that the kids have some musical skills, he gets an idea. His students will be his new rock band.
The kids are a sharp group, and keep Dewey on his toes. Two girls demand an upgrade when their band assignments don’t inspire them, and there is a bit of female empowerment woven into these two storylines.
Each of the band members not only acts and sings with bravado, but also plays their own instruments. As Dewey tells one student, “You’re 10 years old and you’re already better than me.” The kids also act as stagehands, pushing their desks onto the stage and generally exhibiting all the blessings of innocent, youthful energy in their performances.
The play is simple, but joyful. It promotes the idea that music resides in all of us and that we can suffer if it is denied an outlet.
Julian Fellowes wrote the script, while Glenn Slater added the lyrics. Andrew Lloyd Webber provided new music and even attended opening night on May 3. His wife, Madeleine, spent six years working to obtain the theater rights after watching the movie with their children and being both delighted and touched by it.
Their vision was generally a crowd-pleasing success. Children and adults who enjoy Disney musicals and other kid-oriented theater will be similarly happy with “School of Rock.” The added musical numbers bring fun and some pathos to the production, and the transition from movie to musical honored the original while simultaneously adding to the spirited nature of the piece.
The sets and costumes, both designed by Anna Louizos, bring the school, Dewey’s apartment, a local bar and the final show stage to life, and it’s a kick for the audience to become in as essence part of the show during the new rock band’s big concert finale.
Tickets start at $35. For more information, contact hollywoodpantages.com.