Attitude, volume and cute kids finding their inner rebels. That’s the recipe for fun and abandon in “School of Rock,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of the 2003 film starring Jack Black.
The show, which opened a weeklong run Tuesday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, is bracing and even deafening at times. Theater officials should consider handing out earplugs with the Playbills. But “Rock” has heart, and some kid empowerment, beneath all that noise.
We’ve all seen variations of this narrative. Down-on-his-luck rocker Dewey (Rob Colletti) lives with former bandmate Ned, now a substitute teacher, much to the consternation of Ned’s bossy girlfriend Patty, who demands that Dewey come up with rent money.
When Dewey accidentally picks up a phone call asking Ned to sub at a tony private school, he impersonates his friend, and shows up to teach the preppy kids. Cultures collide, hang-ups fall by the wayside, and liberation ensues.
The attitude in “Rock,” directed with relentless energy by Laurence Connor, is expressed not just by Lloyd Webber’s crunchy guitar-driven music, but also in Glenn Slater’s lyrics from the show’s anthem, “Stick It to the Man”: “Rock the house and make a scene and crank the amps to 17. Scream until their ears are shot, they all can kiss your you-know-what.”
The creative team, from conductor Martyn Axe to choreographer JoAnn Hunter, takes that to heart, as does the cast. Colletti is a ball of unbridled, often inappropriate (but funny) energy as Dewey. He gives the slacker a golden heart, even if some of his antics are off-putting.
But it’s the youngsters — who play their own instruments — who truly raise this “Rock.” Led by Ava Briglia as take-charge Summer, John Michael Pitera as fashion-conscious Billy, Gianna Harris as shy powerhouse Tomika, Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton as drummer Freddy and Phoenix Schuman as guitar hero Zack, they are clear and competent with huge stage charisma.
If the adults aren’t as interesting, it’s because their story lines are so clichéd. We can see Lexie Dorsett Sharp’s transformation from repressed principal to unleashed rocker coming from a mile away, even if she plays it well. Ditto for Matt Bittner’s Ned, who plays at being responsible but really wants to keep on rocking.
But never mind the one-dimensional cutouts, this blunt show is all about the rebel yell.
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