Family Friendly ‘School of Rock’ Shows Off at National Theatre

The story is known.  Based off of the 2003 film of the same name, and following the movie almost exactly, School of Rock has been touring for over a year, delighting audiences with its celebration of rock and roll.  Now you can see it at National Theatre.

When wannabe rockstar Dewey Finn is ousted from the band he started and is in search of funds — not only to pay rent to the friends he’s mooching off of, but also to compete in an upcoming Battle of the Bands — he does something insane, and definitely illegal.  Posing as his friend Ned, substitute teacher extraordinaire, Dewey happens into a plum teaching assignment at the posh Horace Green prep. Obviously, he never intended to really spend any time teaching, but when he finds out the children in his class have serious musical talents, he decides to turn the students into his rock band for the Battle.

Ironically, Merritt David Jones, who plays Finn, actually did go to school to be a music teacher before his theatre career.  But he relies less on his own studies and more on a study of Jack Black’s movie character to pull off his own version of the miscreant musician.

But that doesn’t matter.  Unlike the movie, Finn’s character isn’t the one that will captivate you.  Neither is Principal Rosalie Mullins (Lexie Dorsett Sharp), though between her voice and her convincing awkwardness, she has many great moments.  No, in School of Rock, the children don’t just steal the show, they are the show.

Ranging in age from about 8-12, they are a real guitar shredding, bass slapping, keyboard crushing rock band, complete with manager, back up dancers, groupies, and security. And yes, they play all of the music… live.  And they are amazing.

Of the 14 new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber, a few are truly good, but earworm “Stick It To the Man” will stay in your head long after leaving the theatre.  And the “kids’ own” School of Rock composition that plays at the end really shows off their remarkable talent with individual solos and all.

Young and older in the audience will enjoy the cast’s unmistakeable talents, the plot’s homage to all things rock and roll, and the story’s overall messages of pride, confidence and unlikely connections.

School of Rock has a runtime of about 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.  The musical plays at National Theatre through January 27th.

*Images credit Evan Zimmerman – MurphyMade

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