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Concert Reviews:
"School of Rock" blows the roof off at the Fisher
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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You will be hard-pressed to find a theatrical experience that’s more sheer fun than “School of Rock.”

It’s easy to be skeptical about the musical stage adaptation of the hit 2003 film comedy, which was such a defining vehicle for star Jack Black that it would seem to defy any other treatment. But “School of Rock,” showing through April 22 at the Fisher Theatre, accomplishes the rare feat of enhancing and in many ways bettering its source material over the course of its ebullient two and a half hours.

And it’s all about the “School’s” students. Yes, Bob Colletti is masterfully back in Black as Dewey Finn, an accomplished physical comedian who convincingly channels Black’s high-octane camp. And the A-team of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyricist Glenn Slater and script writer Julian Fellowes (of “Downton Abbey” fame) has created a corps of solid songs -- including “Stick It To The Man,” reprised enough times for the audience to sing along during the finale -- and stays faithful to the film without seeming slavish.

But even those virtues are eclipsed by “School of Rock’s kid cast, a dozen youths who are every bit the equal to their adult colleagues and steal the show with their confidence, timing and effortless exuberance. Their first appearance, singing the “Horace Green Alma Mater,” is Broadway smooth, but it’s really when they start working with Colletti’s Dewey that things shine, storming through the ebullient anthems “You’re In the Band” and “In the End of Time” and genuinely tugging at heartstrings as they plea with myopic parents during “If Only You Would Listen.”

Their chemistry with Colletti is easy and natural, and their own moments of camp -- as they audition for the Battle of the Bands or try to hoodwink principle Rosalie Mullins (Lexie Dorsett Sharp) in the classroom during “Time To Play” and “Math It’s a Wonderful Thing” -- are accomplished ensemble acting.

A taped message from Lloyd-Webber at the start of the show affirms that the youth corps is indeed really playing their instruments on stage and the four -- Vincent Molden as guitarist Zack, pucker-faced Theodara Silverman playing a bassist that’s nearly as tall as she is Katie, Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton as drummer Freddy and Theo Mitchell-Penner as keyboardist Lawrence -- are outstanding and even, given their ages, astouding. And Grier Burke, as the shy Tomika, stops everything with her a capella rendering of “Amazing Grace.”

“School of Rock’s” energy stays high from start to finish and supports every claim Colletti’s Dewey makes about the power of rock, creative expression and non-conformity. And by the end you will be throwing your hands, or at least a fist, in the air in genuine just-don’t-car solidarity.

Web Site: www.broadwayindetroit.com

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