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The Kids Rock in “School of Rock” at the Aronoff Center

Review by Spenser Smith of School of Rock at Broadway Across America

Rob Colletti and Company in “School of Rock”

School of Rock, the musical, is the stage adaptation of the 2003 film by the same name wherein Jack Black’s Dewey Finn finds himself kicked out of a band, desperately needing money. A substitute teaching position (mistakenly) comes along and his unorthodox “teaching” methods push boundaries at an otherwise uptight private school. The audience at last night’s opening at the Aronoff Center seemed to really enjoy this show that is perfect for the whole family.

Rob Colletti plays the down-on-his-luck Dewey Finn with contagious enthusiasm. He is instantly likable, although detested by some, yet we never forget his heart of gold. Last night the energy did seem very low, to the extent that I asked if the understudy was on and not yet comfortable in the role. That was not the case, but midway through the first act he had settled in. Don’t get me wrong here, his performance is hysterical, he was just getting warmed up. CCM grad Lexie Dorsett Sharp plays hard-nosed Rosalie, the principle of fictitious Horace Green School. She’s against Dewey’s unconventional teaching methods, until he asks her out for a drink to hopefully get to know her a little better. When her favorite Stevie Nicks song starts playing on the jukebox, she lets her hair down and sings an anthem I can’t quite remember. In this moment, they find common ground and begin to have legitimate feelings for one another? It all happened so suddenly and the “moment” that solidifies this plot line in the staging seemed very forced and unnatural. The chemistry between the two also seemed lacking, but they’re playing a moment that still strikes me as unbelievable.

Although those two are billed as the “leads” so far as theatrical credits are concerned, the real stars of the show are the KIDS. They ROCK! Literally. They all play their instruments live on stage and those moments are highlights of the show. Not only do they play, each has their own obstacle to overcome. Despite the hilarity of Julian Fellowes’ book the kids have several truly touching moments. I heard several comments in the lobby about the positive messages portrayed and I will champion any story that reminds us that our uniqueness is a strength.

Multiple reviews have heralded Andrew Lloyd Weber’s return to the “rock musical” and rock it does. Other than the hummable “You’re in the Band” and it’s reprise, which I also heard in the line for the men’s restroom at intermission, the majority of the music is just loud. It’s of serious concern since I heard many patrons complaining about not being able to understand any of Glenn Slater’s lyrics. I’m sure sound mixing is an ongoing issue for a show of this nature, but we have to be able to hear what the actors are saying.

Despite some technical glitches, the opening night performance was full of excitement and fun. There were certainly aspects of the show on which I would improve, but in this day and age sometimes one just needs a good laugh. The cast is sure to serve up plenty of those for the rest of their Cincinnati audiences, and beyond.

School of Rock continues at the Aronoff Center through March 4.

For tickets, visit the box office located at 650 Walnut Street , call 513-621-2787 [ARTS] or you can order online at cincinnatiarts.org.