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School of Rock ~ The Musical ~ At The National Theatre

Jordan Wright
January 19, 2019 

Cameron Trueblood in School of Rock Tour. Photo Matt Murphy

For anyone who has harbored fantasies of joining a rock and roll band, School of Rock is a flat-out fantastic, fun-loving musical with an Andrew Lloyd Webber score that hits all the right wah-wahs.  With screaming guitar and drum solos – from kids no less – this show will rock you out of your comfy zone.  Based on the movie that starred Jack Black, its story is simple.  Aging rocker, about to be evicted from his former band mates’ apartment for non-payment of his share of the rent, finagles (or shall we say, “cons”) his way into a substitute teaching job at a posh prep school and starts a band with kids who are still mastering their times tables.  Booted from his band for lack of sex appeal, Dewey (Merritt David Janes) is on his last dime and last pair of socks when he arrives at Horace Green prep and meets Rosalie Mullins (Lexie Dorset Sharp), the take-no-prisoners, hard-nosed principal whose secret passion is Stevie Nicks.  Thanks to Dewey the fourth-graders shed both their shyness and classical music studies to study Rock and Roll, while secretly preparing to compete in the Battle of the Bands.

School of Rock Tour. Photo by Evan Zimmerman-Matt Murphy

At home, the kids hide their intentions from parents who are too distant or too consumed by what they want their kids to become.  In “If Only You Would Listen” the children hope for better communications with parents who are too busy to care about their individual hopes and dreams.

Due to the many questions about the reality of the kids playing their instruments, Webber makes a pre-curtain, taped announcement to assure us that they do – backed by a nine-piece pit orchestra.  Though the set up and introduction of the characters is a tad slow going, by Scene 6 in Act 1 under the expert direction of Laurence Connor, the story comes alive when the students, with Dewey’s encouragement and guidance, lose their inhibitions and rock out.  As actor musicians you can sense their youthful enthusiasm which is as palpable as it is contagious.

School of Rock Tour. Photo by Evan Zimmerman-Matt Murphy

Of the kids in leading roles watch for outstanding performances from Sami Bray as the feisty, smarty-pants Summer; Leanne Parks as the stone-faced, pigtail-sporting, bass player Katie; Mystic Inscho as the hard-driving, moves-like-Jagger, lead guitarist Zack; Theo Mitchell-Penner as the nerdy, shy keyboard player; Grier Burke as Tomika the soulful singer who sheds her insecurities; and Cameron Trueblood as James the kick-ass drummer.

A cast of nearly three dozen, some in multiple roles – with Layne Roate as Ned, Madison Micucci as Patty, Arianna Pereira as Shonelle, Gary Trainor who also plays Dewey, Sinclair Mitchell as Snake/Mr. Mooneyham.

School of Rock Tour. Photo by Matt Murphy

Book by Julian Fellowes, Lyrics by Glenn Slater, Choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter; Scenic and Costume Design by Anna Louizos, Lighting Design by Natasha Katz, Sound Design by Mick Potter, Music Direction led by Martyn Axe with Julie Homi.

Through January 27th at the National Theater, Washington DC – 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004.  For tickets and information visit www.TheNationalDC.org or call 202 628-6161.

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