SCHOOL OF ROCK has a great gimmick. It’s based on a popular film and has enough cliched feel good moments to please a crowd, especially the crowd I saw it with. The child performers are super talented and are fun to watch. But as a musical, it’s pedestrian at best.
If you’ve seen the Jack Black film version, you know the gist. A loser, with few redeeming qualities steals his friend’s identity, takes over a prep school classroom depriving students of the well rounded education their parents are paying $50,000 a year for in order to make them into rock stars. Even with the schmaltzy overlay and over the top evil characters, the premise is stupid. (Also, in 2018 I wonder about an off-hand line about the African-American school secretary using crack. I also think having a 10 year old boy – or anyone, for that matter – play a gay stereotype for laughs is wildly inappropriate. Or maybe I’m getting too politically correct in my old age.)
If this show had been performed in a black box space for 150 people, the energy level would have worked fine, especially from the lead actor Rob Colletti. I thought he was funny. But in the cavernous Aronoff Center, playing a role made famous by one of the “biggest” film comedians working today, one should probably project past the first three rows. Lines were swallowed in favor of an understated performance, I guess. It doesn’t translate.
That said, I didn’t hate it. I thought the kids, especially those playing instruments, were quite charming. The sets were quite nice and detailed. There is one or two catchy songs to hum after the lights go down. I think people will walk away from it thinking it was a great night of theatre.
But it is fun!
SCHOOL OF ROCK runs through March 4th at the Aronoff Center for the Arts in downtown Cincinnati. Click here for more information.