Though the lessons in “The School of Rock” are fairly thin, the national tour of the 2015 musical onstage at the Orpheum in The City nonetheless has fun moments and kick-butt performances by a dynamic cast, including some awesome 9- to 12-year olds.
The show is yet another musical based on a movie. This time it’s the 2003 Jack Black vehicle about a slacker musician who masquerades as a grade-school teacher and enlists his young students to compete in a battle of the bands.
Interestingly, Julian Fellowes of “Downton Abbey” fame wrote the book, inspired by Mike White’s more pithy screenplay. Lyrics are by Glenn Slater and new music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who despite some street credibility from “Jesus Christ Superstar” and a couple of admittedly good tunes in this show, isn’t the first composer that comes to mind on the issue of “rocking out.”
Sadly, the show’s creators don’t dig deep enough into real details of rock ‘n’ roll history, and some of the few mentions of iconic rockers get muddled.
And they also waste time and ineffective songs on caricature-laden adults.
The staff at Horace Green Preparatory School (Lexie Dorsett Sharp’s Principal Mullins appeals only when enjoying a Stevie Nicks song in a bar) and some of the students’ parents are played annoyingly broadly under the direction of Laurence Connor.
Happily, though, the exception is Rob Colletti, who’s as warm and wacky as Black as Dewey, who impersonates his friend, substitute teacher Ned Schneebly, then converts students in his staid class into a bona fide rock group.
“School of Rock’s” best parts by far — and they’re even inspirational — are the numbers when the kids perform.
After a slow start, the show kicks into action in a classroom scene when Mr. Schneebly introduces the students to their new instruments: Guitarist Zack (Vincent Molden), keyboardist Lawrence (Theo Mitchell-Penner), drummer Freddy (Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton) and bassist Katie (a super-cool Theodora Silverman) really rock out in “You’re in the Band.” (A pre-show announcement emphasized they’re not faking and really playing.)
And things genuinely heat up in “Stick It to the Man,” the Act 1 closer, when the whole crew — Olivia Bucknor, Grier Burke, Bella Fraker, Carson Hodges, Jack Suarez Kimmel, Alyssa Emily Marvin, Ira Nemirovsky, Jesse Sparks, Cameron Trueblood and Gabriella Uhl — joins in.
Given the right material, these kids clearly have a future in show biz.
School of Rock
Where: SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. most Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays; closes July 22
Tickets: $55 to $256
Contact: (888) 746-1799, shnsf.com
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