Review by Alan Jozwiak of School of Rock: Broadway in Cincinnati
Don’t just sit and take it,
Stick it to the man.
Rant and rave
and scream and shout.
Get all of your aggression out.
They try to stop you,
let ‘em know
exactly where they all can go.
And do it just as loudly as you can!
The above lyrics, taken from the song “School of Rock,” sound like a flashback from an 1980s Heavy Metal band. Instead it becomes the rallying cry of School of Rock, the latest Broadway touring show from Fifth-Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati presented by Tri-Health.
Taking its inspiration from the 2003 film of the same name, School of Rock follows the exploits of rock guitarist Dewey (Rob Colletti), who is forced to find creative ways to make money when his substitute teacher roommate Ned (Matt Bittner) insists he come up with back rent. Dewey intercepts a call meant for Ned from Horace Green, a private prep school, who inquire whether Ned can substitute teacher at their school. Seizing on the opportunity, Dewey pretends to be Ned so that he can get the rent money. In the process, Dewey discovers the hidden musical talents of his class and decides to enter them into a rock contest called the Battle of the Bands.
With new music by Broadway veteran Andrew Lloyd Webber (Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera) and lyrics by Glenn Slater, this screen-to-stage musical adaptation is above average in its music content. There are several catchy songs, like the one quoted above, that serve to delight audiences. As a result, this show ends up being a crowd pleaser, getting audiences on their feet at the end of the show excited by the action happening on stage.
Playing the role of Dewey, Rob Colletti was uneven with his performance. At the start of the show, there was something off about his playing the part of Dewey and he didn’t hit his full stride until the second act. It is hard to see this play without thinking about Jack Black and much to his credit, Colletti’s performance tries not to channel Jack Black to the point of mimicry. Colletti finds his own interpretation of the part and was also able to belt out rock anthems at the same time.
As the female lead, Horace Green principal and Stevie Nicks fan Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp) provides a wonderful counterpoint for Dewey. Sharp was able to portray the voice of sober reason to Dewey’s crazy ideas and there was good chemistry between the two actors on stage. Sharp is also a fine singer. Not only can she belt out songs like “Where Did the Rock Go?,” but she also sings a solid version of Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria from The Magic Flute.
However, the real stars of the show are the children who are in Dewey’s class. The cast has some talented actors/musicians and there is not enough space to discuss all of them individually. Kudos go to Katie (Theodora Silverman), who was outstanding as the School of Rock bass player. Also excellent was the keyboardist Lawrence (Theo Mitchell-Penner) and backup singer Marcy (Cloe Anne Garcia). I personally loved watching Garcia’s long hair bob and weave every which way as she was singing. She made that role so much fun to watch. Finally, kudos have to go to the band’s manager Summer (Gabriella Uhl). Uhl hit the right note (pun intended) for her part by being the bossy know-it-all and was delightful to watch.
What was not delightful to watch on opening night was the woman who sat in the empty seats in front of me during Act II and decided to video record songs from the musical on her portable video recorder. After being told by those around her not to record, she finally shut down her video operations after being told to stop by a floor supervisor at the Aronoff Center.
I had just taught an Intro to Theater class the day before where we went over the basics of theater etiquette. We went over the fact that video recording is against copyright rules, as well as rude to those sitting next to the person video recording.
I guess some people have no etiquette these days when they come to the theater.
So, in the words of the title song of the piece, I want to stick it to the woman sitting on the Orchestra in either seat J 209 or 210 that she ruined the glorious ending of the show by her video shenanigans and if she wants to video record something, do it outside of the theatre.
In closing, School of Rock is a show that should please its audiences. It is a feel-good musicals that leaves you humming the songs after the show is over. It runs February 21 to March 4 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Aronoff Center Box Office at (513) 621-2787 or by going to their website https://www.cincinnatiarts.org/events.