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Surprisingly excellent “School of Rock” at the Winter Garden Theatre (Preview review) December 3, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.

For the record, School of Rock is still in previews at the Winter Garden Theatre in NYC, though I can’t imagine it isn’t frozen (or close to being frozen) at this point. Seen at the Wednesday Evening Dec 2nd performance, this is a rocking, excellent surprise — and I am going to predict that it gives Hamilton a run for its money at award time.

Featuring almost all of the songs from the original movie, with 14 additional new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical follows the Mike White script pretty closely (re-written for the stage by Julian Fellowes, but don’t worry, you won’t miss any of the signature lines from the movie which all remain). Glenn Slater wrote the additional lyrics for the new songs.

Alex Brightman turns in a superstar performance in the Jack Black role of Dewey Finn (aka Ned once he assumes his “teacher” role). Sierra Boggess turns in a lovely vocal performance as principle Rosalie (though her talent is a bit wasted in this small role), but it is as it should be, because the stars here are Brightman and the kids — and oh, those 13 kids. First, yes, they DO play their own instruments on stage, and the multiracial casting is sublime. Second, you can’t take your eyes off of them — I started picking my favorites, but within a few songs I loved every one of them — and judging from the ecstatic audience reaction last night, so will you. The show receieved a standing ovation before it was even over following their big Battle of the Bands performance.

The entire supporting cast is excellent — but really, it is those kids and the remarkable musical numbers that will keep audiences flocking to the Winter Garden for years, and New York is the perfect market to supply a steady stream of new young talent as these kids grow up and age out of their roles. And you know what, I’ll be back to see them as soon as I can, because I simply loved School of Rock. And you can feel free to take your entire family — the crudity from the movie is toned down, and there isn’t an out-of-place joke that won’t leave you either doubled over or groaning.

It all plays out on a gorgeous accordian-like set that slides, moves, tilts, turns to create school hallways, house interior, classrooms, stages, theatres. The lighting is remarkable for its austerity at the beginning and its outstanding visuals once you hit the rock concert sequence at the end. In fact, its some of the best lighting design I’ve ever seen in a Broadway show (Natasha Katz, of course!).

The last time I felt like this when leaving a theatre was at Kinky Boots — and we all know how that turned out. Expect tony nominations for musical, book, score, Best Actor, lighting, set design, choreography, orchestrations, Scenic design, costume design, sound design.

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