SCHOOL OF ROCK – Book by Julian Fellowes; Lyrics by Glenn Slater; new Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Directed by Katie Reid Milazzo; Music Direction by Michael and Amy Pickering; Choreography by Madeline Shaffer. Produced by Parker Arts (Presented by Veritas Productions at the Parker Arts Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Drive, Parker) through February 10. Tickets available at 303-805-6800 or parkerarts.org.
Who would have thought that the author who wrote DOWNTON ABBEY and the composer who created the music for PHANTOM OF THE OPERA would have collaborated with Mike White who wrote the movie script for Jack Black?? And it would all end up in a production of said collaboration on a stage in little ol’ Parker, Colorado? Yet here we are, tapping our toes and shooting our hands in the air and shouting “Stick it to the Man!” Ain’t life grand?!
What a delightful way to spend an afternoon or an evening watching talented young people and a few ol’ fogies live out their dreams of Rock Stardom. Veritas Productions and Parker Arts chose well for their first collaboration. In bringing this charming script which appeals to both older and younger artists, to their stage, they are guaranteed to please every member of the audience.
The stage belongs to Caleb Reed who brings the frenetic energy of the original Dewey, Jack Black, to the stage while also allowing him a sweet, shy and hopeful side as well. He doesn’t care how old or young you are, if you like music, you’re a friend. He passes on his enthusiasm easily to the receptive kids and treats them like the semi-adults they want to be. The kids sing “If Only You Would Listen” about their parents and Dewey came into their lives and listened. The results were amazing.
Next, we have the student ensemble – the heart of the show. Fifteen extremely talented young performers from the Parker/Castle Rock area were found who could play an instrument, sing and dance. While all participated and played their parts loud and proud, recognition must be given to the ones who stepped forward and said, “I can do this.” First there was Summer (Gabrielle Gueck) who became an immediate thorn in our hero’s side with her constant questions and dependence on the “rules” of the school. Needless to say, she fell into the lure of “being in the Band” even though she admitted she couldn’t sing. But she took on a patter song that would have put Lin-Manuel Miranda to shame. Then there was silent Tamiko (Sariah Smith) who never spoke till she sang. Then Zach (Christopher Gawlikowski) started the music with his electric guitar. His middle name should be Riff. Soon he was joined by Katie Burt – another guitarist, Freddy (Sean O’Malley) on the keyboard who was not cool enough to be in the band until he was, and Liam Dodge on percussion keeping the Rock rolling with a vengeance. To create a sense of belonging among them, Dewey wisely gave every person in his class a job and then backed off and let them do it, making each job as important as the ones playing instruments.
Dewey and the Band are supported by a group of adults who take on the roles of both parents and teachers of the kids. While they were hidden under long wigs and tight leathers making them nearly unrecognizable, I think I could pick out Patrick Brownson, David Kouts, and Kevin Eksterowicz as members of the No Vacancy rival rockers in the Battle of the Bands. Rosemary Smith as Ms. Sheinkopf, a member of the school staff, stopped the show several times with her smart mouth remarks and comic timing. Dewey’s best friend and benefactor Ned, played by Erik Thurston, made a frustrated rocker come back to life under the inspiration of Dewey despite his shrewish wife, given bitchy life by Miranda Byers. Another standout performance was given by Sara Metz as the principal of the Horace Green School. She displayed the versatility of her voice by using it for both Mozart and Stevie Nicks.
As always, the team at Parker keeps the show rolling. Especially important for a show involving loud rock music, the Audio team (Curt Behm, Matt Koenig, Mason Campbell, Ross Hullender and Ari Kutzer) along with the five piece “pit” band on stage (led by Michael Pickering) achieved the desired effect of enthusiastic musicians without breaking anyone’s ear drums. Christy Izmirian created clever glitter touches to the kid’s school uniforms for the big Battle of the Bands. Matthew Crane’s scenic design created a set that moved somewhat easily between bedroom, living room, school room and teacher’s lounge. If only there was a way to get tables and chairs off and on more easily; although this cast and crew were like a hill of worker ants getting stuff done quickly. Almost as choreographed as the real dance numbers.
Your kids will love this one. Bring them along.
A WOW factor of 8.75!!