SCHOOL OF ROCK by Julian Fellowes, Glenn Slater and Andrew Lloyd Webber (Mirvish). At the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria). Runs to January 6. $25-$215. 416-872-1212. See listing. Rating: NN
School Of Rock features the adorable sight of kids in school uniforms rocking out and playing real instruments, but that’s not enough to get a passing grade.
Based on the popular 2003 Jack Black movie, it’s about a schlubby rock wannabe named Dewey (Merritt David Janes) who, kicked out of his band and in need of some quick cash, poses as a teacher at a prestigious prep school.
After discovering that his young charges are all misunderstood, he gets them to channel their pre-adolescent angst through the power of rock. And soon they’re good enough to compete in an upcoming battle of the bands, if only Dewey can get the kids to the competition without getting fired.
The film’s Black is a unique actor who can be obnoxious yet lovable. Janes, although he mimics Black’s vocal rhythms and has gritty, powerful pipes that can screech through his numbers with authenticity, has a harder time gaining our sympathy.
Worse, he and the other actors are given little to do that’s not eye-rollingly obvious in a book by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes.
The female characters come off the worst, especially Patty (Madison Micucci), the nagging girlfriend of Dewey’s spineless pal Ned (Layne Roate); and the school’s principal, Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp), suffers through the indignity of being a prim and proper woman who’s left her rocker self behind.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is forgettable and JoAnn M. Hunter’s choreography borrows way too much from Bill T. Jones’s anarchic moves for Spring Awakening.
But even though the child characters are clichés – the shy kid, the queer kid, the bossy kid, the nerdy kid, etc. – the talented young actors playing them will make you smile.
And that’s better than the yawning you’ll be doing between their scenes.