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Theatre review: School of Rock at the Pantages Theatre

Anita W. Harris, Culture Writer

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Photo by Matthew Murphy
From left: Rob Colletti (Dewey)and Lexie Dorsett Sharp (Miss Mullins) in Pantages Theatre’s School of Rock

The Broadway touring production of School of Rock, at the Pantages Theatre through May 27, is like the 2003 film of the same title but “musicalized” with 14 additional arrangements by no less than Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer of such blockbusters as Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats, among others), along with humorous and poignant lyrics by Glenn Slater and story by Julian Fellowes (creator of Downton Abbey). The result is a richly musical version of the film, exalting its rebellious theme of kid (and adult) empowerment.

The dozen or so child performers actually sing and play instruments here– including electric guitar, bass and drums– along with an insane amount of jumping as only kids can do. Clad in the plaid uniforms of the lofty Horace Green preparatory school, these mostly 10-year-olds cutify the production with their talent, including well-timed humor.

Equally energetic is their leader, irreverent (fake) substitute-teacher Dewey Finn (the very natural Rob Colletti, channeling the film’s Jack Black), a rock-obsessed musician still dreaming of his big break.

While Colletti’s vocals are respectable– gravelly and occasionally resonant– the effortless operatic tones of uptight but latently cool principal Miss Mullins (Lexie Dorsett Sharp) greatly enhance the production. She shines in her soaring self-searching solo “Where did the Rock Go?” while at a dive bar with Dewey.
The kids are also vocally skilled, including quiet Tomika’s (Grier Burke) strong rendition of “Amazing Grace.” The African-American legacy of this song makes it an interesting choice for a production in which the gospel roots of rock are not otherwise made explicit. (In a brief reference, Dewey’s history of rock begins with rockabilly in the 1950s.)

The kids’ collective angst, caused by parents who variously don’t hear them, overschedule them and expect them to follow in their footsteps, is best expressed in their ensemble number, “If Only You Would Listen,” which is the only harmonizing song that is possibly a stretch for their talents.

But otherwise, their bright energy, and that of the two main leads, Colletti and Dorsett Sharp, make School of Rock funny and highly engaging for audiences both young and old. Its timeless message to follow your spirit and “Stick It to the Man,” as the kids exuberantly sing, is as catchy as the music itself.

School of Rock continues at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., through May 27, with performances Tuesdays through Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 1pm and 6:30pm. Tickets start at $35. For tickets and information, call the theatre at (323) 468-1770 or visit hollywoodpantages.com.

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Theatre review: School of Rock at the Pantages Theatre