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School of Rock: The Total Tourist’s Guide

The red carpet rolled out at the New York premiere of School of Rock on Broadway in the winter of 2015, so it’s still fairly new in comparison to many of the Big Apple’s shows. That’s not to say the musical is still cutting its teeth, though.

The show has had more than a warm welcome from audiences and was nominated for four Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards in 2016. The show didn’t quite make it to the trophy stage, but who needs metalwork? In 2017 the production celebrated its 500th performance on Broadway.

Still not convinced? Here are five good reasons to see School of Rock during your time in NYC.

The underdog story

Based on the 2003 film of the same name, School of Rock on Broadway revolves around the life story of a character called Dewey Finn. At the start of the show, Finn is in a bad place. Within the opening acts of the production, he gets kicked out of his band No Vacancy and loses his job. All he wants is to be a rock star, but he’s living in a spare room at his old friend Ned Schneebly’s house. Ned’s girlfriend Patty is threatening to throw him out if he doesn’t pay his late rent.

Ned is a substitute teacher and while he is out one day, Finn picks up a phone call. The call comes from the headmistress of a prestigious girls’ school and she’s offering Ned a job with a very good salary.

Impulsively, Finn, who has no teacher training credentials, pretends to be Ned, accepts the job and turns up for duty – hungover – the next day. His students are apprehensive. They are well behaved and are used to being taught by serious staff.

At first, Finn ignores his pupils, then an idea overtakes him. He decides to teach them music so that they can compete in a Battle of the Bands contest.

Throughout the show, the audience gets offered glimpses into the students’ home lives. Many of their parents expect impossibly high standards from them, and some others of the children are not accepted for who they are by their mothers and fathers. A boy called Billy, for example, hides a copy of Vogue inside the covers of Sports Illustrated so his father doesn’t know he’s reading about fashion.

In Act Two Ned finds out about Finn’s deception when he finds a paycheck in the mail. A huge cover-up ensues. With the help of some supportive teachers, Finn’s class make it to Battle of the Bands to perform.

Yes it’s an unbelievable story, but it’s got the feel-good factor in spades. If you don’t come out of the theatre uplifted, something’s gone wrong somewhere.

The laughs

The comedy in School of Rock comes in the form of witty one-liners and slapstick physical theatre. Examples of the former include lines like ‘I’ve been touched by your kids. And I’m pretty sure I’ve touched them (parents gasp)’. The slapstick element sees lead characters falling over, tripping up and bumping into things. The combo works well. There are a lot of children in the cast of this production but it’s not a children’s show. The humour has been carefully crafted throughout the script to ensure it appeals to adults.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber effect

Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the music for School of Rock and the godfather of musical theatre doesn’t disappoint. There are some seriously anthemic stadium-worthy songs in this show such as You’re In the Band and Stick it to the Man. During the latter, it’s not uncommon for the auditorium to vibrate with the force of the audience’s stamping feet and clapping hands. There’s a pretty special power ballad in the show, too – Where Did the Rock Go?, sung by school headmistress Rosalie.

The talent

A large portion of the main characters in School of Rock are aged 13 or under. Some even have single-digit ages. But there’s no child’s play on stage. All of the young people involved in the show are acutely talented musicians, singers and actors. The solos on instruments like electric guitar and drums are goose-pimple good.

The love story

What’s a musical without a love story? Without giving too much away, there’s a great one in the School of Rock on Broadway. Not least because the hero and heroine involved are both larger than life characters. This love story goes beyond the run-of-the-mill boy meets girl because the actors who play the roles involved have made their parts so much more than ordinary boys or girls.

School of Rock is playing at Winer Garden Theatre, 50th Street & Broadway.

For tips on how to get into the shows for less, check out our guide on getting cheap Broadway tickets

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