Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s “School of Rock” opened Friday night and it most definitely brought the house down.
Based on the 2003 Paramount movie starring Jack Black, “School of Rock” is about rocker Dewey Finn who gets kicked out of his band and finds himself needing a job and money. He poses as a substitute teacher for a class of fifth graders at a private elementary school and soon learns that they can all play music. He realizes he can form them into a band and compete at the Battle of the Bands, against the band that kicked him out.
If you’re a fan of the film, then you will definitely be a fan of the musical. Nominated for four Tony awards, including Best Musical, the musical isn’t much different than the film except for more musical numbers and some changes to the script.
Drew Johnston gives a rocking performance as Dewey Finn. You could definitely sense some Jack Black in him as he made the audience laugh and as he made the audience want to get up on their feet and start jamming out. You can sense his desire to be a rockstar in “When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock” and he hyped the class up with the song “You’re in the Band.”
Maria Veenstra plays Rosalie Mullins, Horace Green’s principal. She steals the stage with her ballad “Where did the Rock Go?” while out at a bar with Dewey. Joshua Bennett, who plays Ned, Dewey’s best friend, thinks about the good old days of when they were in a band in “Children of Rock.” Patty, played by Katie Hicks, is Ned’s wife and wants Dewey out of the house, where he is freeloading. She reprises “Mount Rock” to Dewey with some powerful vocals.
The class of fifth graders are nothing short of musical talent. They make you feel heartbroken with them in “If Only You Would Listen,” a song they sing to the parents who want them to be something they are not. But my favorite song with Dewey and the students would definitely have to be “Stick it to the Man.” That song made me want to sing with them and it made me believe I can do anything I want in my life no matter who’s in charge.
The show ended with the popular song—and name of the musical—“School of Rock” that would make anyone want to start a band with their friends.
Scenic designer, Christian Poquette, did a wonderful job with the classroom design and when it came time to change the scene, the turning of a wall and the focus of the spotlight did the trick that transformed you into that space.
The costumes were another perfect perk. Emily Stein, costume designer, made it simple with the children’s uniforms and then when it came time for the final performance, she amped it up with some rock and roll style.
“School of Rock” had children (and adults) of all ages laughing and rocking in their seats. You will definitely leave the theatre singing the catchy songs and wanting to “Stick it to the Man!”
Make sure to catch this show soon because it’s only at the Civic Theatre through Aug. 4. Tickets are available on the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre website.
*Photos courtesy of Grand Rapds Civic Theatre