Enroll the Family in “School of Rock”

Enroll the Family in “School of Rock”

Alex Brightman and the kids of “School of Rock.” (©Matthew Murphy)

First think back to the first time you plugged in your headphones, pressed play, turned up the volume, and lost yourself in an epic rock ‘n’ roll album.

Then, if you have kids, go see the Broadway production of “School of Rock” with your family, and be reminded of how great music can be transformative. I recently took my daughters, age 10 and 12, and I believe they’ll never forget it. This musical adaptation from the creative team of Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Cats”), Glenn Slater (“The Little Mermaid”) and Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”), is based on Richard Linklater’s 2003 movie of the same name. Mike White wrote the script for his friend Jack Black, and it also turned out to be a breakout role for Miranda Cosgrove (your kids will know her as the star of Nickelodeon’s “iCarly”). The movie was hilarious and adorable, and the show at the Winter Garden Theater stays true to its roots, featuring a spectacular cast of talented 10 to 14-year-olds and the next best thing to Jack Black himself–Alex Brightman in the lead role as Dewey Finn.

Early in the show, we learn about Dewey’s ambitious dreams to be a rock star. In reality, however, we see he’s more of a jobless, man-boy living life as an unwelcome third wheel with his buddy and former bandmate Ned Schneebly, now a substitute teacher, and Ned’s girlfriend, Patty, who wants Dewey O-U-T. Dewey answers a phone call (meant for Ned) about a job as a teacher at a prestigious private school, and he jumps on the opportunity as a way to earn money to pay the entry fee to compete in an upcoming Battle of the Bands. And the rest takes care of itself, gloriously with a gaggle of talented kids, music you can’t help but move to, and an all-around joyous show.

“You’re in the Band” is a highlight, when the audience witnesses the students’ impressive musical talents. Dewey also sends them home with an assignment to study (listen) to everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Les Claypool to The Supremes. (Make note that it’s as good an assignment for the parents in the audience to add these music legends to your home music rotation if they’re not there already). In "If Only You Would Listen," (my youngest daughter’s favorite song) we glimpse into the lives of the students outside of Horace Green, and learn about their woes–being overscheduled, under pressure, and in need of more attention from their success-seeking parents. But the true rallying cry of “School of Rock” is “Stick It to the Man.” It’s a catchy tune and you’ll enjoy hearing your kids singing it long after the final curtain call. It also becomes the mantra for the rest of the musical.

In the end, Dewey doesn’t get away with mooching off his roommate and lying about his identity, but he still comes out on top. He finds his path to success, the students embrace their voices, and the audience begs for an encore.

My daughters were frustrated when the show ended—they wanted more—and immediately asked if they could see it again. And, my younger daughter, who plays flute, now wants to learn bass (having been impressed by Evie Dolan, the girl who rocks out with the bass in the show). Best music appreciation class I could ever have given my kids.

» School of Rock, Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway, btw W. 50th & W. 51st sts., 212.239.6200