by Beki Pineda

SCHOOL OF ROCK – Book by Julian Fellowes; Lyrics by Glenn Slater; Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Directed by Laurence Connor. Presented by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Broadway (Buell Theatre, 15thand Curtis, Denver) through June 10.  Tickets available at 303/893-4100 or denvercenter.org.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I did not see the movie of SCHOOL OF ROCK, am not a big fan of Jack Black, was not intrigued by the prospect of kids playing rock, and did not anticipate enjoying the show. Boy, was I wrong!! The show starts out with a bang and a giggle and goes uphill from there. The story is well told and interesting; it’s fun to see kids blossom from nerdy and uptight to real kids having fun; and it’s interesting to see how his journey changes the main character Dewey.

Dewey is a guitarist who loves music – so much so that he makes a nuisance of himself with the other members of the rock band he plays with. He’s a little heavy, not too cool, and oblivious to his annoying qualities. All things that get him fired. In order to make the rent money, he assumes the role of substitute music teacher and steals a job from his friend who actually is a substitute music teacher. He is appalled at how up tight and regimented his class is and determines to loosen them up with a little rock ‘n’ roll.  Imagine his surprise when he discovers that they can actually play instruments and want to be in the band. Together they resolve to actually become a band and compete in a Battle of the Bands against Dewey’s old rock group. The journey and the lessons learned – both kids and adults – becomes the show.  Dewey’s youthful swagger becomes grown up doubt and then confidence as the kids teach him. He learns that you don’t have to be a “teacher” to teach.

All of the kids are fun to watch from the ones who actually play instruments to the “back up singers” to the ones who just jump up and down and shout the music. There are fifteen kids in the classroom; I honestly cannot tell you the names of the ones that had featured roles.  But the little drummer was fantastic – the girl bass player had a great “whatever” attitude – and the lead guitar could really rock. The kid playing the “stylist” stole the show.  There are poignant moments when some of the students admit to feelings of inadequacy, to not being liked by other students or listened to by their parents. One kid unhappily confessed that he “was not cool.”  To which, Dewey had to admit that he too was not cool – but that music had saved him. These negatives were ultimately glossed over as the fun of the band evolved. There was crazy dancing, the music was simplistic enough that they had the audience singing by the chorus; and the joint was really rocking. Of course, Rob Coletti as Dewey kept the show on track. There was a romantic subplot that ended satisfactorily and, in the end, everyone got what they deserved.

This is a family friendly show that will appeal to both parents and kids – a great show to share.

A WOW factor of 9!!