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Review by Vince Mediaa

Class is in session at Horace Green Academy and Dewey Finn is your substitute teacher. SCHOOL OF ROCK, the musical is now on stage through September 11th at the Lucie Stern 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. Webber wrote 20 new songs for the stage version. Palo Alto Players includes some of the best local preteen talent including 7th grader, Rafi Frans, on lead guitar who stops the show at least two times with his amazing riffs.

Directed by Doug Santana who is Department Head of performing arts at Archbishop Mitty HS says “School of Rock’ is the perfect choice to kick off the 92nd season at PAP. "*The thing that I love about this show is that while Dewey is sort of an unlikely mentor, he ends up becoming a great teacher," Santana said. "He's taught them to express themselves creatively, he's allowed them to break free of the rules and regulations. That sort of theme — of the impact of a great teacher — has been fun. I hope that most people have had a teacher in their life that has been that impactful in some way. I know I have." (*PA Online)

The youth in the show never upstage the powerhouse performance of local favorite Jomar Martinez, perhaps the first POC in the role of head rocker Dewey Finn. Martinez told the PA Online; "We have so much in common. When I was in high school I really had this big dream of becoming a big rock star, similar to Dewey Finn."

The story opens in a small rock club as the energetic frump Dewey Finn, who plays for the glam band NO VACANCY. 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 musical follows the film script more than other film to stage adaptations. 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." Martinez's first number "When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock." His voice is always at 100% and he is on stage through most of the two act musical. He is always at top volume; it's an athletic workout for any voice.

Director Santana and full throttle choreographer Joey Dippel do a superb job with the cast that includes 14 talented pre-teens. Their voices are surprisingly superb under the music direction of two musical directors Anie Jan, Lane Sanders and vocal director Daniel Lloyd Pias. Conductor Jan has a pit of seven amazing musicians, plus directs the teen musicians on stage including the gifted CJ Fernando, Rafael Frans, and Alex Pease on drums. The teens play live on stage and show off their school of rock talent.

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. 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, to be a respected rock star. The show speeds up as we see Dewey audition the kids for his band in the spirited number “You’re In the Band”, one of Lloyd Webber's best anthems. Dewey introduces each of the kids and samples their talents as they join his band.

The marvelous pre teens in the cast include: Lily Zinkevich, Adeline Anderson (bass), Micah Lee, Maddie Santana, Max Hofmann. Sadie Vaughn, Alex Pease (drums), Rafael ‘Rafi’ Frans (guitar), Reese Levine, CJ Fernando (keys), Hailey Matta, Jillian Mendelson, Mary Hutton, Logan Watson, and Madison Wang. The students bring their own baggage to the story with helicopter parents as they sing to the adults “If Only You Would Listen”. Dewey cons everyone at the school including headmaster principal Rosalie played by the splendid Amy Kohmescher who shines in her solos “Queen of the Night” and “Where Did the Rock Go”. Kohmescher and Martinez make a perfect mix matched couple and she has a riveting voice.

The set is slick and dapper designed by artistic director Patrick Klein, and includes a full concert stage to end the show. Costume designer Noreen Styliadis has the students in classic private school plaid, it gets wild with NO VACANCY rock band ratted hair and leather. The adults are all colorful but Principal Shienkoft has wonderful fashion and heels. For a rock musical the lighting needs to be eye candy and lighting designer Edward Hunter has created a busy spot-on concert look. Alyssa Holbrook takes credit for the hair and wigs, especially rousing for Martinez's frazzled hair, the students comb out their hair for the second act numbers. Sound designer Anthony Sutton easily transformed the set from a prep school classroom to a Battle of the Bands rock concert including hand mics. Stage Managers Lauren Howry and Sasha King have a busy cast who make many of their entrances from the audience aisles as the set pieces easy move on and off with the cast helping out.

Shy Tomika, played by the elegant Sadie Vaughn belts out “Amazing Grace” to become a lead singer with the band. Shonelle played by Lily Zinkevich is cast as one of the bravo backup singers that rocks the huge numbers including “In The End of Time” with all the kids. Martinez closes the first act with the stomping show stopper “Stick It to the Man”. The kids hit choreographer Dippel’s dance moves 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 teens and Dewey learn about confidence and their potential they never knew they had. I give this production’s casting a gold star with its biracial families and interracial couples. Including a gay couple even though they were a bit camp, it was still fun to see the diversity with the the kids’ and POC parents. The adult characters sing “Faculty Quadrille,” which needed some spark from the youth cast. SCHOOL OF ROCK is a wonderful family fun celebration that kept the sold out audience on their feet at shows closing. The dynamite youth musicians make this show work and Jomar Martinez is a tour de force and a 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 encores! The best concert to end your summer.





Based on the Paramount movie written by Mike White

Score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Glenn Slater, Book by Julian Fellowes

Directed by Doug Santana

Music Directors

Amie Jan, Lane Sanders, Daniel Lloyd Pias

Choreographer Joel Dippel

Must Close September 11th

Lucie Stern Theatre

1305 Middlefield Rd Palo Alto

Two hours 25 minutes

Photo Credit: Photos by Scott Lasky and

*Doug Santana and Jomar Martinez interview by Karla Kane / Contributor PA online


The cast of Palo Alto Players’ SCHOOL OF ROCK includes:


Dewey Finn: Jomar Martinez

Rosalie Mullins: Amy Kohmescher

Ned Schneebly: Zack Goller

Patty Di Marco: Amanda Le Nguyen

Theo/Mr. Hamilton/Mr. Noble: James Schott

Mr. Spencer/No Vacancy/Mr. Green: Daniel Cardenas

Mr. Williams/No Vacancy/Mr. Woodard: Derrick Contreras

Mr. Mooneyham/Mr. Janes: Edmond Kwong

Mr. Sandford/Jeff Sanderson/Gabe Brown: Rob Viola

Ms. Sheinkopf: Kayvon Kordestani

Ms. Gordon/Police Officer/Stanley: Jamie Gussman

Mrs. Travis/Mrs. Sanders/Snake: Katie Bonn

Mrs. Hathaway/Ms. Bingham: Kathleen Kenealy

Mrs. Turner/Ms. Macapugay: Kristy Aquino

Horace Green Faculty/Security Guard: Gillian Ortega

Mr. Ward/Mr. Wagner: Ji Wang


Shonelle: Lily Zinkevich

Katie (Bass): Adeline Anderson

James: Micah Lee

Marcy: Maddie Santana

Mason: Max Hofmann

Tomika: Sadie Vaughn

Freddy Hamilton (Drums): Alex Pease

Zack Mooneyham (Guitar): Rafael ‘Rafi’ Frans

Billy: Reese Levine

Lawrence (Piano): CJ Fernando

Summer Hathaway: Hailey Matta

Sophie: Jillian Mendelson

Madison: Mary Hutton

Ethan: Logan Watson

Harper: Madison Wang


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