My main takeaway from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock at the Eccles Theater is this: How on earth they found enough classically trained, yet totally able to transform into full on rock gods-type actors, all under the age of 10 is entirely beyond me. The theater made a point to specifically announce that each child is not just standing there with an instrument- each of them was rocking out in real time. And it was amazing. Trust me!
Mystic Inscho (Zack) and Leanne Parks (Katie) had their head banging and rock presentation down to a science, while Dylan Trueblood (Mason) looks like he was born to be behind a drumset. Julian Brascia (Lawrence) was the perfect fit for a groovy keys dude, and Sami Bray had her Hermione Granger attitude on lock. And little Camille de la Cruz as Tomika? The crown went buck wild for that not-so-little voice.
Going into this show, I was a little concerned about how the casting would approach filling the huge shoes left behind by Jack Black after his performance in the film. He was the perfect painfully casual misfit, and I wasn’t so sure anyone could recreate that role. How did they solve it, you ask? Well… by having Merritt David Janes try his very best to exactly replicate Jack Black. A few modern references to fidget spinners, an attempt at a fortnight dance and a pretty spot-on impersonation of the president helped Janes step out of the shadow a bit, and while his rendition of Dewey wasn’t quite up to par with Black’s, it was pretty darn close.
I also had reservations about the humor and music: you just can’t beat those classic lines! But this show knocked all of my doubts out in just a few scenes. The adult characters had the perfect comedic timing, without too much stage-corniness, and the new lyrics (particularly Webber’s new kick-rock ballad “When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock”) proves that this conspicuous composer really can do it all.
But really, though: if anything puts this tour above and beyond, it is that cast of kids. They are everything I wanted to be as a child, and the musical version of School of Rock gets even deeper into the everyday struggles of these kids, and every kid: parents who never listen. Those damn parents! Their soulful little voices, both crooning to their parents ears and melting faces in “Stick it to the Man,” stole the whole show.
I was chatting with a few other press-folk, and one expressed dismay that “the real-life man” took rock and roll and turned it into a musical to make money. He said: “These are the posers Jack Black warned us about.”
While there certainly was a more “Broadway” vibe to this script, I don’t know if I agree with that statement. The show wasn’t Woodstock by any means, but it certainly wasn’t The Phantom of the Opera, either. So if you want to see a season-ticket-holding little old lady with a walker bestowing double-fisted “rock on” symbols to a cast of scary-talented elementary school kids, get down to The Eccles this weekend!
School of Rock – The Musical at the Eccles Theater
May 28-June 3, 2019
- Matinee performances Saturday June 1 at 2 p.m. and Sunday June 2 at 1 p.m.
- Weeknight performances May 28-31.
See artsaltlake.org for ticket sales and showtimes.
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