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YES! I’m in the Band! A review that will make you want to enroll in the School of Rock (The Musical)!

For those who have been living under a rock you may not have realized that School of Rock-The Musical has come to The Wharton Center for Performing Arts in the Greater Lansing area. You also may not know that this show will, quite literally, rock you! School of Rock is based on the hit movie by the same name and features the character Dewey Finn. Dewey (played by the AMAZING Rob Colletti) is a wannabe, currently band-less musician who poses as a substitute teacher in the highbrow, prestigious school Horace Green. While there, he takes a class of straight-A, seemingly perfect students and assembles them into a “face-shredding” rock band. After watching the show on opening night I can absolutely agree that this show is “AN INSPIRING JOLT OF ENERGY, JOY AND MAD SKILLZ!” (Entertainment Weekly)

School of Rock Tour (9)

The cast of the School of Rock Tour. © Matthew Murphy.

The short review:

Imagine your goosebumps being electrified, your veins being shot full of adrenaline, your feet having an uncontrollable urge to leave the ground jumping, and your mind.completely.BLOWN, and you will only be able to partially know how truly electrifying this show is. If you need more details…..please keep reading!

All of the details (well, not all, because you HAVE to watch the show):

“It begins on a dark stage. Then, a beam of light! And then you just see”…

Actually, it starts out giving us a small glimpse into the life of Dewey Finn. A man with no job, no money, and no aspirations other than to live out his teenage fantasy of being in a rock band. When he doesn’t quite make it to the “Top of Mount Rock” and after being threatened with eviction from his best friend’s hounding girlfriend Patty (played by the super talented Emily Borromeo), he resorts to impersonating his friend and roommate Ned (Layne Roate nails the nerd vibe) when he intercepts a phone call offering Ned a substitute teaching job at the prestigious Horace Green school. (Wow…long sentence…breathe). Seems predictable enough right? Man down on his luck, pushed to the edge, makes a desperation move…

Enter Horace Green. This is where it really gets fun! Here we are introduced to a cast of kids who absolutely amaze in their musical talents. Each of these young actors play live EVERY show. Not only do they play live, but they are phenomenal musicians. And the voices…oh my…the voices! When Tomika (played by Grier Burke) belts out a soulful and powerful rendition of “Amazing Grace” my heart was bursting!

Once Dewey discovers these kids can really jam he comes up with the insane idea of forming them into the rock band of his dreams. With the support of dynamic songs such as “You’re in the Band” and “Stick it to the Man” we are sucked into the synergistic energy that begins to exist between Dewey and the students of Horace Green.

 

While there is a colossal amount of enjoyment to be had in the singing, dancing, and ROCKing throughout the show, I walked away with an appreciation for School of Rock for a bit of a different reason.

If you dissect the underlying themes here there is a realization that this is about much more than fist pumps and rock. It is a little deeper, and touched by more substance than one might find at the surface level.

Let’s start with the character of Rosalie Mullins, the stuffy, prosaic head mistress of Horace Green. In Act 1 we see a woman that the students (and staff) are terrified of.  Only Dewey is bold enough to take a chance on peeling away the outer layers and helping her unleash her inner wild child. In Act 2 we are able to start seeing the Stevie Nicks loving, frisky side of Rosalie (played by the powerhouse singer Lexie Dorsett Sharp), but also her inner loneliness and desire to re-discover the girl who loved rock.

 

Most notably, however, is when a glimpse is given into the home lives of the Horace Green, straight-A, “perfect” students. We are taken to a scene where moment after moment these kids are told they aren’t good enough, are not doing it right, need to try harder to please their parents, and need to be something other than who they truly feel they are…they are not being understood, supported, or heard. Cue the heart-breaking “If Only You Would Listen”.

 

As the personal lives of each of the characters begins to unfold we start to see that Dewey, the one character who is initially presented as not having it all together is the one person who is able to help everyone else find themselves. He shows them what it means to follow your dreams, lead with your heart, reach down under the surface and discover that you can do more….and most importantly how to love people where they are and not based on conditions that are set for them. Ultimately, all of the people that he has influenced (including Miss Mullins), reciprocate by coming to his aid once he is outed as an impostor, demonstrating just how far of a reach a big heart can have.

Overall, this was a big hit for my family! I immediately wanted to enroll my kids in every music lesson available for their age group (I didn’t). From the standpoint of pure entertainment value it was completely worth it…bonus if you are able to dive in to it as deeply as I did.

Although School of Rock-The Musical is top on our list of favorites, it may not be for everyone. Most notably those with serious heart conditions, high blood pressure, or who suffer from anti-rockandrollitis exacerbated by poor taste in high energy entertainment. You get a hall pass! Everyone else, get there and get your face shredded by these phenomenally talented kids and the cast of School of Rock-The Musical.  Whether you are simply looking to be mindlessly entertained by great songs and phenomenal performers or you are looking to connect with the deeper themes of the show, there is something here for you.

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