Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of American Moor
Julian Fellowesyes, the creator of "Downton Abbey"wrote the book, based on Mike White's screenplay for the 2003 movie that starred Jack Black. Here, Merritt David Janes takes the role of Dewey Finn, a scruffy aspiring rock guitarist who takes a substitute teaching job meant for his best friend and finds motivation in the musical talents of his fifth-grade students. Janes hits all the notes in Dewey's character: his immaturity, his determination, his inspiration, and ultimately his sense of purpose. (Don't let any of that sound pretentious; it's fun and sometimes rather gross.)
Glenn Slater's lyrics are a snug fit for Lloyd Webber's melodies, from Dewey's anthemic "When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock" to the students' rowdy "Stick It to the Man."
Much of the humor of the situation comes from the conflict between the culture of the conservative prep school, where the students wear uniforms and play classical music, and the anarchy Dewey brings to everyone's lives. It's also the old story of parents who either have unrealistic expectations for their children or don't pay attention to them at all, until they're forced to take another look.
Everyone in the cast gives noteworthy performances, but the highlights among the students are Lawrence (Theo Mitchell-Penner), a nerdy classical pianist who learns how it feels to be cool; Katie (Leanne Parks), who picks up the tough attitude of a rock bassist like a champ; Zack (Mystic Inscho), a blazing electric guitarist; and Summer (Sami Bray), a know-it-all who becomes the band's managerand, unlike her adult counterparts, doesn't get her comeuppance.
If there's a problem with the plotting, it's the way the two leading women are set up as tough, no-nonsense caricatures who become likable when they submit to the charms of their feckless, music-loving men. Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp), the school principal and a classical singer, doesn't loosen up until Dewey discovers her secret love of rock-and-roll. Patty (Madison Micucci), girlfriend of Dewey's best friend and landlord Ned (Layne Roate), dominates both men until Ned the doormat reverts to his own bad-boy persona.
The National Theatre