Broadway in Cincinnati’s production of “School of Rock,” playing now through March 4 at the Aronoff Center, hits all the right notes and delivers the next best thing to a live rock concert — maybe even better since the seats are more comfortable and the audience is extremely well-behaved! Based on the popular movie and with new music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, it is a showcase of the phenomenal talent that kids possess — singing, dancing, acting and shredding fantastic tunes on their instruments. With clever integration of iconic band names and classic song lines, “School of Rock” jams out some pretty poignant life lessons that strike a chord with us all while keeping us laughing throughout.
The entire show is fun and engaging, with a few highlights that take it the next level. Simple, yet effective set designs seamlessly transport us back and forth between the Hogwarts-esque prep school of Horace Green, the current mooch-headquarters of Dewey Finn (played hilariously by Rob Colletti) at his friend’s house, and the Battle of the Bands stage. Smart stage direction enables you to feel like you are actually at a rock concert during certain scenes, which is reinforced near the end by the kids’ parents becoming part of the real audience, standing among us as they watch their kids perform. My kids absolutely loved this part, as they were in awe of the actors being just a few feet away, and the play-within-a-play creates just a little bit of magic.
Iconic rock moments and relatable memories are hilariously brought to life throughout. Some of our favorites include Dewey and Ned rocking out to Guitar Hero, Principal Rosalie (played with 80s music conviction by Lexie Dorsett Sharp) rocking hard to Stevie Nicks despite her better judgement, and a well-timed and unexpected “We are the Champions” rendition. If that were not compelling enough, the fast-paced dialogue takes us from politically charged world issues (global warming and gender equality) to a “Star Wars” reference to reality television dissing, while unfolding a story that is both compelling and heartwarming. But the showstopper is the absolutely unbelievable talent of the kids on stage who are actually playing those instruments. It is a reminder of how important it is for our kids to see other kids up on stage, as it makes them feel like their own dreams are just a little bit closer.
Yes, you will rock out a little (maybe a lot). Yes, you will laugh out loud. Yes, your heart will both ache and swell a little as the story unfolds. But mostly you will find yourself contemplating a surprising number of memorable life lessons. Here is what our family walked away with, in no particular order:
“School of Rock” is definitely more than meets the eye and a fun experience for the entire family. Take a night out to revisit your 80s rock glory days or just to experience the amazing talent of this cast; you’ll walk away ready to rock out your own jam and “Stick it to the Man.”
Know Before You Go: Remember to get booster cushions for your little ones. Be prepared for an almost 3-hour show and ensure you plan for both pre-show and intermission restroom breaks (even when they tell you they don’t need to go and the lines are longer than voter registration lines)! The name itself tells you that this is a “rock” show, and it is appropriately loud at times with some bright flashing lights during the concert scenes. Overall, it strikes the perfect balance of adult humor that flies over the head of our little ones while delighting them with more obvious humor, but if you are cautious about exposing your little ones, it does have some language and innuendo.
Christi Geary is the proud mom of two girls 10 and under, best friend and wife of her husband Brian, and an Associate Director at the Procter & Gamble Company focused on innovation insights and analytics. She enjoys and participates in art of all kinds, feeds an insatiable curiosity for learning, pursues different forms of exercise when she can find the time to balance out her foodie predilection, and delights in spending time with family and friends.