School of Rock kids' cast in Toronto
School of Rock kids' cast in Toronto

Kids' Cast Saves 'School Of Rock'

Last year, Andrew Lloyd Webber became the first person in more than 60 years to have four Broadway shows running at the same time.

The feat has only been achieved once before — by Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1953.

The show to make the quartet a record breaker is School of Rock, the musical with music by Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater, a book by Julian Fellowes and based on the 2003 film of the same name, written by Mike White. The show, running at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, Nov. 28–July 6, follows Dewey Finn, an out-of-work rock singer and guitarist who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. After identifying the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-graders, in an attempt to win the upcoming Battle of the Bands contest.

Customer reviews of the show in the US and Toronto are all over the place, and from my perspective, all comments have a degree of authenticity to them. The show is both lame and inspiring, but I have to admit I exited the musical feeling more elated than disgruntled in having my time wasted.

What makes the show electric is the cast of kids who are a marvel to watch and hear.  The flimsy plot that pulls them together is as flimsy as flimsy gets, but the kids power through a trio of songs that are unequivocal knockouts. Among these, “Stick It To the Man” (clip from the Broadway edition).

Oh, and by the way, Andrew Lloyd Webber appears in a video pre-roll tape at the intro to the show, assuring us that these kids really do rock and play their instruments. It's hard to believe, but these kids are the real deal. Fantastic, I say.

And here’s “Zach’s Song” that sounds like a crafty patchwork of anthemic rock songs that sound instantly familiar.

All in all, a fun if somewhat expensive holiday diversion to take the kids to, if you happen to live in the GTA. It’s also a musical that strongly endorses the idea that music programs can still inspire in schools today.

Supplementary reading

The kids are top-class in School of Rock – Karen Fricker, theatre critic, The Toronto Star

Kid + 1 Review – Megan Mooney, Mooney on theatre

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