Reeling it in: Ready to rock?

  • By Chris Jenness
  • Wednesday, July 19, 2017 9:58pm
  • News

“School of Rock”

Paramount Pictures

1 hour, 49 minutes

For nearly two decades I’ve been writing reviews for this paper, and I pride myself on having been able to turn in a movie critique from wherever I am. Whether it be from Vermont or Santa Fe or as far away as France, I’ve been able to go out and see a movie, and report on it. Even last week, I made it to Spider-Man in London.

This week, however, I struck out. I’m in Switzerland and between touring the family around and the language barrier, I wasn’t able to make the movie work. I know at home it’s the latest Planet of the Apes movie, but I guess I’ll just have to wait.

In the meantime, I have a recommendation that’s a little bit of a cheat since very few will actually have the chance to experience it. My penance will be having to type out said review on this bizarre Swiss keyboard which, inexplicably has the y and the z in opposite places, has no quote marks that I can see, and for some reason has squeezed in an extra space for the =N:E= keys over by shift, making capitalization a bit of a chore.

I had the privilege to take my family to see the theatrical adaptation of Richard Linklater’s School of Rock in London’s West End last week, and we had a blast. If you’ve never seen this film, stop what you’re doing, look it up, and watch it. The movie is superb – funny, poignant, and completely entertaining. Ultimately, I’d have to say I prefer the film, but the stage show has plenty to enjoy.

The story goes like this: Dewey Finn, a failed rock ‘n’ roller, is about to get kicked out of his apartment because his best friend’s girlfriend is fed up with his lack of income. Dewey’s best buddy, Ned, is a substitute teacher for some of the most prestigious prep schools in New England, but when a new school, Horace Green Academy calls, Dewey takes the job, posing as Ned. Wackiness ensues.

Normally, this would be plot enough for your basic farce, but School of Rock adds another level that made both the movie and the stage show the must-see attractions that they are. The class that Dewey takes over, a typical fifth-grade group on the face of it, turn out to have some phenominal talent. After overhearing the kids in music class, our hero hatches a plan to form his own rock band in order to win the coveted Battle of the Bands and prove all the naysayers wrong. What makes the show unique is that the kids in the rock band are really playing the instruments, a feat that’s even more impressive on stage than it was on screen.

Going to see the show was interesting because, while I know a lot about movies, I have a lot of personal experience with theater. The staging is impressive and cool, the production designer choosing a kind of stone basement aesthetic to rotate the different settings through. A rotating stage made for easy transitions between the bar, the apartment, and the classroom at Horace Green. I love watching a well-oiled production like this because it gives me inspiration and ideas for things to do in my own theater. A rotating stage may be a little out of our budget, though.

I felt like the show started a little rough, with the characters speeding through the exposition in order to hurry up and get to the kids. That’s understandable.

But when the kids finally arrive, it’s all worth it. Playing live on stage, these young musicians completely lit up the theater, and by the end, the show felt more like an actual rock show than it did a play. The audience was on their feet, whooping and hollering and singing along at the top of their lungs. It was a great time, and as I’m sure this show will be touring, maybe one that’ll come to a stage a little closer to home.

Grade: A-

School of Rock is rated PG-13 for some adult humor.

Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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