THE TALENTED KID MUSICIANS MAKE THIS THE ONLY REASON TO TO SEE ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S FIST PUMPING ROCK PARTY
Class is in session at Horace Green Academy and Dewey Finn is your substitute teacher. The National tour of SCHOOL OF ROCK, the musical is now on stage through July 22 at SHN's Orpheum stage. With an original score by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, pop lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Julian Fellowes. Based on the popular 2003 film starring Jack Black, that featured its own music that is included in SOR. Webber did create 20 new songs for the stage version, he says “ School of Rock is fun. Hopefully, I have kept the spirit of the original film and fleshed out with a few catchy songs.” Webber adds “the central message of the story is about the empowering force of music.” The stage version needed to cast youngsters 9 - 12 who could sing, act and play instruments live and professionally. This company includes some of the best Broadway kids including 6th grader, Vincent Molden, on lead guitar who stops the show at least two times with his amazing riffs.
The story opens in a small rock club with the energetic frump Dewey Finn, played by the infectious Rob Colletti (Book of Mormon), who plays for the glam band NO VACANCY. Because he continually upstages his band mates while playing his guitar, the hotter singer kicks Finn out and replaces him with a more eye catching musician named Snake. The book follows the film script more than other film to stage musicals. We meet his roommates while he complains about having to pay the rent "I'm so tired of people always bugging me for the money I owe them." Colletti opens the show with his solo “"When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock." His voice was tired opening night, this was his second performance of the day. He is always at top volume so it must be an athletic work out for his voice.
Dewey, the wannabe rocker with no money, parties at night and sleeps all day. When he answers a phone call from the principal of a prestigious prep school intended for his best friend and roommate, Ned, played by the likable Matt Bittner. Ned’s high strung girlfriend, Patty, played by the ideal Emily Borromeo, calls him a freeloader and bum who never pays his rent. Bittner and Colletti both sing “Children of Rock” and show off their comic timing. Dewey decides to impersonate Ned and accepts the job to be a long term substitute teacher, especially when he learns he will be paid close to a $1000 a week.
Director Laurence Connor and choreographer JoAnn M Hunter do a superb job with the cast that includes twelve talented pre-teens. Colletti as teacher Dewey Finn, is not the most likable Broadway hero as he doesn’t have to worry about these young Broadway pro’s who never upstage him. Coletti, even vocally tired from his second show of the day, is impressive. We meet the kids in the song “Horace Green Alma Mater” where the adult cast and students sing about the traditions of their highly regarded prep school. The set is slick and dapper designed by scenic and costume designer Anna Louizos. Lighting designer Natasha Katz and sound designer Mick Potter easily transform the set from a prep school classroom to a Battle of the Bands rock concert.
Dewey easily wins over his class of straight A achieving students especially when he discovers they are all musically gifted. Instead of grades and gold stars, he crowns the students “soul brothers and soul sisters” and turns the class into a rock n’ roll history lesson. He hopes to have the kids help him live his dream, since he was 10 years old, to be a respected rock star. The show speeds up as we see Mr. Finn audition the kids for his band in the spirited number “You’re In the Band”, one of Lloyd Webber's best compositions. Dewey introduces each of the kids and samples their talents as they join his band.
The marvelous kids in the two and half hour musical include: Huxley Westemeier, Gabriella Uhl, Cameron Trueblood, Jesse Sparks, Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton, Vince Molden, Theo Penner, Jack Suarez Kimmel, Olivia Bucknor, Grier Burke, Natalia Bingman and Carson Hodges all top pro’s. The students bring their own baggage to the story with helicopter parents as they sing to the adults “If Only You Would Listen”. Moretti-Hamilton and Mitchell Penner show off their impeccable voices along with the other “iGeneration” in the cast. Dewey cons everyone at the school including headmaster Rosalie played by the splendid Lexie Dorsett Sharp who shines in her solo “Queen of the Night” and “Where Did the Rock Go”.
As we learn more about the students backstories; Katie played by the stand out Theodora Silverman doesn’t like being overworked. Dewey turns a shy boy named Freddy, played by the talented Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton, into a power-house drummer. Piano player Lawrence played by the accomplished Theo Mitchell-Penner tells his new teacher he isn’t cool enough to be in the band. Of course, the clever Mitchell-Penner, is able to switch like a pro from Mozart to Queen and Electric Light Orchestra. Dewey tells him “By the time you are done with the piano, you will be so cool, you will be a walking popsicle.” The teacher’s pet, Summer, played by Iara Nemirovsky, follows the rules and, of course, becomes the band’s manager.
Shy Tomika played by the elegant little Grier Burke belts out “Amazing Grace” to become a lead singer with the band. Shonelle played by Olivia Bucknor is cast as one of the bravo backup singers that rocks the huge numbers including “In The End of Time” with all the kids. Colletti closes the first act with the stomping show stopper “Stick It to the Man”. The kids hit choreographer JoAnn Hunter’s dance numbers flying in the air jumping up and down and shouting “Stick It to the Man.” They fist pound and agree with Dewey to name their band SCHOOL OF ROCK, and enter the Battle of the Bands to spread the word of rock n’ roll and make Dewey a star.
The kids and Dewey learn about confidence and their potential they never knew they had. I give this production’s casting staff Tara Rubin and Merri Sugarman cheers with its biracial families and interracial couples. Including a gay couple even though they were a bit camp and over-the-top, it was still fun to see the diversity with the the kids’ parents. The adult characters sing “Faculty Quadrille,” that needed some spark from the youth cast. SCHOOL OF ROCK is a wonderful family fun party that kept the sold out audience on their feet at shows closing. The kids make this show work and Colletti is the true Rocker. The banner song “School of Rock” closes the show along with the hit “Stick it to The Man”. “Class is now in session” It's easy to get in this band, rock out, then stand and cheer during the many encores!
SHN PRESENTS ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S
SCHOOL OF ROCK
Based on the Paramount movie written by Mike White
Score by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Book by Julian Fellowes
Directed by Laurence Connor.
Must Close July 22
SHN’s Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
Two hours 25 minutes with one intermission
$75-$246, subject to change www.shnsf.com
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy
IN-PERSON SOR RUSH TICKETS
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Rush tickets are void if resold.
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School of Rock | Sizzle Reel Broadway Cast
Original Broadway Cast featured in the above vid clip
Jack Black says hi to the Kids rocking their way across the country in the National Tour of SOF; Alyssa Emily Marvin as Marcy, Grier Burke as Tomika, Vincent Molden as Zack, Huxley Westemeier as Billy, and Iara Nemirovsky as Summer. Jack Suarez Kimmel, Cameron Trueblood, and Jesse Sparks.
Class is now in session for 12-year-old Vincent Molden from Chicago is one of the featured talented pre teens
in the National Tour of SCHOOL OF ROCK
When the show traveled to San Francisco there was Vincent — rocking out on his guitar, sending his dazzling long red hair soaring. The Skinner North sixth-grader had never acted before landing the lead role in the Jack-Black-movie-turned-Andrew Lloyd Webber-musical. “We showed up to an open call because we thought it would be fun and Vincent loved the movie,” Daniel Molden, Vincent’s dad, said.
Vincent was invited to a callback the following day and a third audition in New York in February. “That’s when we started thinking, ‘What if this actually happens?” Daniel Molden said.
Later that spring he was cast for the National Tour. Molden’s parents Daniel and his wife, Nancy, both college professors - they’re taking turns traveling with Vincent when they aren’t teaching, and turning to grandma and grandma when they can’t make it.
Vincent shares the stage with another mid west, stage veteran Grier Burke, who, at 10, has appeared in the national tour of Disney’s “The Lion King” and, locally, “Elf the Musical,” “A Christmas Story” and “Billy Elliot.” Grier plays Tomika in “School of Rock.”
Burke says “I wouldn’t want to criticize another person’s acting because it’s an art that can can be different in good ways,” she replied. “Acting tips are better given by the director.” She’s is enjoying her time onstage. “I like to feel the energy from the audience,” says Grier; “I like to put my feet in a character’s shoes and tell their story. It’s also fun when the audience applauds or laughs when I say a line. I feel powerful and brave when I am on stage.”
When asked if she plans to pursue acting long-term. “Heck yeah!” she replied. “Even though I also love to bake and I enjoy building things, designing things, and science, no matter what I also want to continue performing when I’m older.”
Vincent’s is not so sure. “I wasn’t dreaming of being in a play before this,” he said. “I just love playing guitar, and I’ve been doing it for a long time. I first picked it up when I was 6, and I’m 12 now.” At the end of spring, for his 12th birthday, Vincent’s friends from Little Kids Rock music program traveled to watch him perform. LKR is a national nonprofit that works to expand music education in public schools.
“Vince can rock,” his friend and fellow LKR musician Armand, a seventh-grader at Franklin Fine Arts school, said when asked to describe his pal. “And he loves french fries.” They’re in a band called Velvet Sleepers. “In real life, I’m not much like the character Zach,” Vincent said. “In the beginning, he’s sort of a kid who only knows rules and discipline and doesn’t really get an opinion or a say in anything.” But the guitar changes all that. “When he learns about rock music and gets to rock out more, that’s kind of who I am,” Vincent said. “He finds his voice and learns to speak out and channels his anger through music. That’s when he goes from obedient, prep school kid into rock star.”
You can see Vincent Molden and the other 11 Broadway pre teens in SCHOOL OF ROCK, that is currently running through July 22 at the SHN SF Orpheum Theatre.
*CHICAGO TRIB Interview with Molden and his family by Heidi Stevens Balancing Act Reporter
Rob Colletti & the Cast of the SCHOOL OF ROCK Tour Jam Out in Rehearsal