Hi, I'm Morgan! I'm a twenty-something theater critic and writer (which really just means I've been a Theater Kid my whole life but now I'm an adult) based somewhere between Baltimore and Washington DC. 

Hopefully, I can help you discover a new show or the next song that will be stuck in your head for weeks on end.

I've been a theater writer since 2016, and I'm so excited to share my passion for the arts with you! Happy reading!

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Me in front of the harbor that houses the Statue of Liberty in New York City

Review: "School of Rock" Musical Sticks it to the Man

The cast of “School of Rock” “climbed to the top of Mount Rock” in director Laurence Connor’s musical adaption of the 2003 movie of the same name.

The musical follows the story of wannabe rock star slob Dewey Finn (Rob Colletti) as he poses as a fraudulent substitute teacher at Horace Green Preparatory School in a twisted effort to make enough money for his rent. He pretends to be his best friend and roommate Ned Schneebly (Matt Bittner) after Ned’s nagging girlfriend Patty (the so-perfectly-annoying-I-can't-stand-it-in-the-best-way Emily Borromeo) threatens to kick him out. When Dewey discovers his overachieving students are talented musicians, he uses them to put together an electric guitar playing, drum-banging rock band.

Emily Borromeo, Rob Colletti, and Matt Bittner (Photo courtesy of the School of Rock Official Tour Website)

Colletti easily fills the shoes left behind by Jack Black in the original film as he brought a lovable, childish energy to the character. Colletti’s unstoppable excitement and ability to switch from serious controlled vocals to high-pitched rock wails create a character the audience can’t help but root for, serving as the direct contrast to the straight-laced, no-nonsense character that is Rosalie Mullins (Lexie Dorsett Sharp), the principal at Horace Green. Sharp’s powerhouse vocals and stern authoritative glances mark her as the seemingly antithesis of Dewey, until Rosalie’s complexity as a character is (beautifully) revealed in Act II.

Rob Colletti and Lexie Dorsett Sharp (Photo courtesy of the School of Rock Official Tour Website)

But by far the most impressive part of this production is the musical talent of the students of Horace Green. Rather than relying solely on an orchestra, these talented kids play their instruments on stage, adding a level of both authenticity and entertainment. As the production combines classic rock songs we know and love, songs from the original movie and new content written for the stage adaption, the theater is transformed to that of a rock concert. Hats off to Katie (Theodora Silverman) and her perfectly exaggerated poker face as she strums on the base, Freddy (Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton) banging out the beat on the drums, Zack's (Vincent Molden) ability to wail on the electric guitar and Lawrence (Theo Mitchell Penner) as he pounds on the keyboard.

Theo Mitchell Penner (Photo courtesy of the School of Rock Official Tour Website)

With a plot that is so glaringly, morally wrong, the balancing act between creepy and sweet is critical in this production. With its over-the-top characters and wild shenanigans, there were times it toed the line of making audiences feel a need to call child protective services. Thankfully, Colletti always managed to reign it in before it arrived in the realm of unbelievable and uncomfortable. His lovable awkwardness and sincerity create an authentic bond with the children, allowing Dewey to be forgiven for all of his hungover, slovenly mistakes.

Theodora Silverman and Rob Colletti (Photo courtesy of the School of Rock Official Tour Website)

In taking such a movie and adapting it for the stage, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber had the task of combining musical theater music with this classic rock feel, and did so with grace and precision that allowed “The School of Rock” of Horace Green Preparatory School to rock the Battle of the Bands. While still maintaining the originally integrity of the original movie, Lloyd Webber brought something new and exciting to the musical, inviting the audience to be a part of the band, even though they’re not in the band.

Rob Colletti and the cast of School of Rock (Photo courtesy of the School of Rock Official Tour Website)

As part of this effort to bring the story to life on stage, the musical updates the pop culture that so obviously dated the movie back to the early 2000s. Taylor Swift, Kanye West, fidget spinners and Apple products all have a place at Horace Green as Dewey deems the “boring subjects” like math and social studies “not important,” focusing instead on Rock History and Rock Appreciation and Theory.

Rob Colletti and Vincent Molden (Photo courtesy of the School of Rock Official Tour Website)

While the dialogue of the production was updated, the set and tech of the show were not, effectively breaking the recent trend of elaborate multimedia backdrops and digital set pieces. This refreshing use of original styles of theater helped ground this otherwise high-energy production. With so much of this hyper excitement, the students’ emotional ballad, “If Only You Would Listen,” is a moment of peace in the controlled chaos, and reminds us of the voices of children that are so often brushed aside. As the students of Horace Green are learning how to “Stick it to the Man,” so too are real students around the country, rallying for stricter gun control.

Rob Colletti and the cast of School of Rock (Photo courtesy of the School of Rock Official Tour Website)

True to the original comedy and mildly vulgar humor found in the movie, the musical adaptation of “School of Rock” brings something new to the table as actors take ownership of their character and make the role their own. Character relationships (particularly those of Dewey and the students) are more deeply fleshed out, giving the production more layers and adding depth to this otherwise upbeat production.

School of Rock will run at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore through March 25, 2018.

Feature Photo: Courtesy of the School of Rock Official Tour Website

Note: Content is my own but was originally published on The Writer's Bloc. Content has since been slightly updated for this platform.