Audiences first witnessed the rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon “School of Rock: The Musical” on Broadway in 2015. Now the guitar shredding, aspiring rock star Dewey Finn and his band are here in Chicago, bringing their A-game to the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St.).
“School of Rock: The Musical” is a Broadway adaptation of the 2003 film, “School of Rock.” The musical features music by British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Cats,” “The Phantom of the Opera”), delivering 13 hit new songs, as well as featuring original songs from the film, such as “Math Is a Wonderful Thing” and “School of Rock.”
“Stick it to the Man” is the new theme song for Finn’s band and the musical as a whole. Each variation of this song is unique with its underlying meaning becoming most pronounced during the final act. All the child actors play their instruments live onstage, adding to the production’s energy.
The musical’s story is loosely based on the film, however, Webber added and removed aspects to fit his setlist and artistic direction. Audiences follow Finn as he poses as a substitute teacher in place of his best friend Ned (Matt Bittner) at Horace Green Prep School to make money toward rent. The plot is smart and outrageously funny, and Colletti’s interpretation of Jack Black’s original performance of the character is a treat to see. While his singing is superb, Colletti’s take on Finn is compelling because of his witty comebacks and nonchalant remarks toward the school principal, Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp).
The performers bring the narrative to life, but the story would be incomplete without the set pieces. From the vinyl collections in Finn’s bedroom to the portraits on the hallways of the school, the stage feels real. This is especially evident in the final act, when Finn and his impromptu band finally perform, and the musical’s audience becomes the band’s audience. The performers even break the fourth wall and mention Chicago by name. Fog machines and spotlights powerfully streak around the theater as they would at a real rock concert. The only thing missing was Finn’s stage dive from the original 2003 film.
From the musical performances to the acting, the true takeaway from the show is the students. Their performances were all based off of their original movie characters and the actors held nothing back, whether that be in acting or playing their own instruments.
The young actors’ attention to detail was impressive — not once did they fail to meet the high bar Broadway sets. Their chemistry was worth the admission itself.
Each one of the “School of Rock’s” child stars has a similar character arc: They all feel their parents don’t listen to them. The parents are particularly ignorant to the situation and seem unaware that their kids feel pressured by them and school policy. This keeps the students from being their true selves, until Finn picks up the guitar. Finn’s character represents the rebellious attitude inside all of us that just wants to scream, shout and shred to our own personal rhythm.
“School of Rock” will be showing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St.) through Nov. 19. To purchase tickets, visit https://www.chicago-theater.com/theaters/cadillac-palace-theater/theater.php.