Now playing at Paramount Theatre in Aurora, School of Rock is equal parts stage musical and epic rock concert. The thrilling event runs through June 4th and is surely not to be missed.
If you’ve seen the 2003 movie School of Rock starring Jack Black, you know the plotline for the stage musical of the same name. The stage show follows the film script pretty much point by point, with some additional songs thrown in.
Dewey Finn is an out of work musician who dreams of being a rock star. He’s been freeloading off his best friend Ned for years, but now Ned’s girlfriend is insisting Dewey come up with his portion of the rent.
In order to make the rent, Dewey takes a substitute teacher position at a prestigious prep school. Inspired by the talents of his 5th grade students, he forms a band with them to take part in the city’s big battle of the bands. Oh, and in order to get the teaching job, he has to impersonate his roommate Ned.
TIME FOR WORK
On opening night for Paramount Theatre’s big budget production, practically every member of the audience was on the edge of their seat jamming out to the music.
School of Rock the musical features a book by Julian Fellows, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and music by legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber. However, this isn’t indicative of Webber’s usual style. It is trendy with a true pop/rock feel.
The musical opened on Broadway in 2015 and ran through 2019. It was nominated for several Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score.
As this production’s Dewey Finn, Nick Druzbanski emotes every bit as much charm as Jack Black has ever produced. His Dewey Finn is very faithful to the character interpretation Black did in 2003 – and why shouldn’t it be? If something isn’t broken, why try to fix it?
ALL GROWN UP
Dewey is a big kid who never grew up. He’s gotten through life playing guitar and sleeping on other people’s couches. His philosophy, which he hasn’t put much thought into, involves little focus on the details of life outside of fast food and music.
Jackson Evan as roommate Ned Schneebly steals every scene he is in. He perfectly captures the necessary humor of the role, without ever taking the focus unnecessarily from Dewey. Chicago favorite Lucy Godinez is brilliant as Ned’s overbearing girlfriend Patty Di Marco.
At the Horace Green School, Dewey not only finds success inspiring his students, he also strikes up an unlikely romance with Principal Rosalie Mullins, played by Paramount veteran Veronica Garza. Garza has an absolutely amazing voice, with which she displays mastery of several different types of vocals ranging from classically inspired to headbanging rock. Garza’s rendition of Where Did the Rock Go is simply awesome.
I’M WITH THE BAND
The real element of School of Rock that makes it so incredibly spectacular is that the kids in Dewey’s band really play their instruments. Julia Dale, Omi Lichtenstein, David Mattle, Jaxon Mitchell, Kayla Norris, and Julian Wanderer are all incredible musicians.
While all of the kids are great, Wanderer and Mattle are true standouts on their instruments. Similarly, Norris displays an absolutely stunning gospel-inspired voice.
Understudies for the kids include Leighton Tantillo, Naya Rosalie James, Maya Keane, Charlie Long, Lily Martens, Gabriel Solis, Meena Sood, Elias Totleben, Annabel Finch, Genevieve Jane, Savannah Lumar, Levi Merlo, Roxy Salzman, Eli Vander Griend, and Clare Wols.
The musical features a fantastic rotating set by Michelle Lilly. The main set elements are complimented by scaffolding that could have been taken from a real rock concert. It makes for very impressive storytelling.
Costume design is well done by Izumi Inaba. Props are handled by Jesse Gaffney, while hair, wigs, and makeup fall under the supervision of Katie Cordts. Lighting design is by Greg Hofmann and sound design is by Adam Rosenthal. Special projections are curtesy of Mike Tutaj, while Ethan Deppe provides electronic music design.
TOP NOTCH ENTERTAINMENT
Director Trent Stork is one of the city’s finest, and proves that again with School of Rock. Stork knows how to entertain. Stork paces the show well, and puts amble focus on the rock concert feeling that makes it not just a show, but a rock n’ roll experience.
Choreographer Isiah Silvia-Chandley does an excellent job keeping the show moving, while Kory Danielson turns in an excellent job as music director and conductor. The Paramount Band for this show includes Celia Villacres, Dave Saenger, Scott Tipping, Dan Peters, Janis Wallin, and Jim Widlowski.
School of Rock is not going to win the Pulitzer Prize, but not every musical has to have an earth-changing mission. Sometimes it’s good to just let your hair down and rock out. Such is the case with School of Rock.
Paramount Theatre’s School of Rock is a fun musical with some great individual performances and the cutest bunch of young rockstars you could imagine. Be prepared for some tasty music licks.
Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd in Aurora, IL. Performances are Wednesdays at 1:30 PM and 7 PM, Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 1 PM and 5:30 PM. For tickets visit www.ParamountAurora.com or call (630) 896-6666.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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