Why I'm Concerned for "School of Rock"

Anthony J. Piccione

A couple of months ago, I wrote a column entitled Why School of Rock Will Be Incredible. The title pretty much explains what the entire column was about. I had a short list of reasons that showed why I believed that this musical adaptation of one of my favorite comedies of all time would likely be one of the best musicals to open on Broadway within the next year or so. I was so sure of that when I first wrote the column.

But then, something happened.

Early Friday morning, on October 16th, I was flipping through the TV channels looking for something to watch as I woke up, and I turned on the Today Show. They were playing a few clips of the cast of this upcoming musical performing live in New York City. While the audience seemed to mostly be pleased with the performances, it has honestly caused me to be a bit more skeptical of this adaptation.

First of all, while the song that I heard playing was essentially the exact same as the one that played near the end of the film adaptation, the version included in the musical adaptation failed to meet the same musical standards that the 2003 film version had lived up to. I don’t know about you, but personally, when I go to see a show or a movie entitled School of Rock, I expect the music to rock the audience HARD. But to be clear, that wasn’t necessarily my biggest problem thus far with what I’ve seen.

The biggest problem with this show, in my opinion, is the casting. I’m sure some people will say I’m being too hard on the kids, and that I ought to be impressive with the fact that they are so musically talented for their age. But the truth is, LOTS of kids in the performing arts are just as talented – if not more so – than the kids that I watched on Friday morning. More to the point, while they may be talented musically, they did little to remind me of the young characters that I found enduring in the film adaptation, at least based on what I’ve seen thus far.

But the biggest casting flaw in this show, in my opinion, is Alex Brightman’s performance as Dewey Finn. This isn’t necessarily his fault. I’m not entirely sure that another Broadway performer could do much better in that role than he could. But from what I’ve seen thus far, I’m starting to wonder if maybe Jack Black’s performance in that role is so great and so memorable, that NO ACTOR could possibly fill those shoes.

This leads me to a much larger point, which is that maybe some of what I’ve just pointed out isn’t exactly the fault of the actors or musicians involved, but rather due to the fact that the whole idea of a School of Rock musical adaptation – while on paper, might have sounded like a good idea – wasn’t quite as workable as it seems, given how hard of a task it always would have been to live up to the original film. Or who knows? Perhaps someone other than Andrew Lloyd Webber could have done a better job adapting this film into a Broadway musical. Personally, I’m not sure. But I do know this…

Based on what I saw on Friday, this show looks like it is destined to be a colossal disappointment that will fail to live up to both the hype surrounding it, as well as the excellence of the 2003 that so many of us loved when we first saw it in movie theaters. I haven’t seen the whole show yet, so perhaps I could still be wrong. If I am wrong, then I promise not to write another column about this show again. However, I now have major doubts that this show will live up to the expectations that I once had for it.

This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Student, playwright, actor, poet and blogger currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Anthony and his work, please visit his personal blog at www.anthonyjpiccione.tumblr.com. Also, be sure to like him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), follow him on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and view his work on the New Play Exchange (www.newplayexchange.org/users/903/anthony-j-piccione)

Photo: Alex Brightman (center) and the cast of "School of Rock — The Musical." Photo: Timmy Blupe. “