It’s hard not to leave the theater humming Stevie Nicks or exclaiming “Stick it to the man!” after seeing Beyond the Page Theatre Company at West Potomac High School’s rockin’ production of School of Rock, the Musical! The show follows lazy, down on his luck, wannabe rockstar Dewey Finn and his not so brilliant solution to his money woes of impersonating his substitute teacher roommate to make some extra cash at the Horace Green Prep School. There he discovers that his class of fifth graders are not only musically gifted, they can jam like a rock band with some of his tutelage. He decides to enter the class into the battle of the bands, and finds out that the kids, between dealing unsupportive parents and teachers at their wits end, may need Dewey and the music just as much as he needs them.
The score features a mixture of rock and musical theatre tunes by iconic Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Glenn Slater and the book by Julian Fellowes. The show began on the fast track to Broadway, after being announced in December of 2014 and opening at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York just a year later on December 6th, 2015. Prior to opening on Broadway it had staged concerts Gramercy Theatre in NYC. Applications for youth productions of the show actually opened prior to the musical opening on Broadway, where it is still running today. Beyond the Page Theatre Company’s production of School of Rock, the Musical is the regional premiere of the youth production in the Northern Virginia area.
This show is a marathon for it’s leading man, and Tony Lemus certainly wins the race. His powerhouse vocals blew me away with his plethora of high energy solos. Lemus’ non-stop spring-like physicality and sweet but smarmy personality that he brings to Dewey was engaging and so much fun. Lemus is matched perfectly by the show’s leading lady Rosalie Mullins, played by Adrianna DeLorenzo. Her commitment to posture and poise in her character makes her the perfect principal, which makes you love her even more in her moments when she is able to let down her hair and sing you some Fleetwood Mac. DeLorenzo was the epitome of versatile, with a gorgeous soprano able to soar to unbelievable heights in the show’s rendition of “Queen of the Night,” and the ability to break your heart in her soft ballad “Where Did the Rock Go?”. Other featured standouts were Dewey’s two roommates, Ned Schneebly played by Jonathan Barger and Patty Di Marco played by Frankie Mananzan. Barger’s best friend chemistry with Lemus was charming and irresistible, particularly in their “Children of Rock” duet. Mananzan played the dutiful but shrill girlfriend role gracefully, and wowed me with her striking high belt.
The driving force for School of Rock, the Musical is it’s dedicated ensemble of Horace Green students, and Beyond the Page Theatre Company’s bunch was no exception. The band features Julian Worth on electric guitar, Lorna Ryan on bass, Josh Stein on drums, and Aubrey Blount on keyboard. All four playing actors showed they truly are quadruple threats, with impressive vocals, hilarious comedic timing, energetic dance moves, and instrumental abilities that absolutely brought down the house with their big finale “School of Rock.”
A band is nothing without a great manager which in this show is Summer, played by Valentina Selnick. Selnick embodies small but mighty, with an incredible ability to command the stage with smooth and strong vocals and a no-nonsense personality.
Another standout in the student group was Claire Havranek who plays Tomika. Havranek was consistent and endearing with her quiet and shy mannerisms, and made my heart swell with her, as Dewey says, “pure magic” rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
The set was cleverly designed by Ella Moore and Elaina Phalen, incorporating a large turntable that gave the set crew ease to transition the stage smoothly from classroom to teachers’ lounge to Dewey’s messy bedroom. One of the most notable parts of the set was an intricately decorated dive bar, complete with a functional low hanging blue lamp and dingy license plates decorating the walls. With the show’s many moving parts and locations there was a whole army of props, artfully designed by Helen Kitrosser and Quinn Burgard, that really helped to keep us in the world of the play.
The lighting design for the show, done by Jessica Steadman and Kayla Claussen, really added to the concert feel of the show. The finale featured a display of strobes, a whole flashing lit wall, and color patterns galore that were incredibly exciting. The costume and makeup design, by Kaylie Kopicki, also added to the rockstar nature of the musical. From show stopping glittered pleated skirts to a black lipstick, chunky silver heels clad Ned, Kopicki made this cast shine. My hats are off to the sound designer of the show, Victoria de Dios. In a show that combines an offstage rock pit, an onstage rock band, and multiple body mics, her ability to seamlessly balance and mix the show perfectly was skilled impressive.
When not being accompanied by the student band on stage, the show’s score was played by an equally gifted pit led by Music Director Cathy Manley. They were able to jam and have the same awesome energy as their counterparts on stage with professional quality sound. This was complimented by the fun choreography done by Natalie Edwards. Edwards was able to capture great juxtaposition between the kid’s angst filled rockstar moves in songs like “Stick it to the Man” and the prideful schoolchild marches in “Horace Green Alma Mater.”
Director extraordinaire Peelee Clark outdid himself with this production. Crisp, effective blocking, and a deep understanding of character were shown on stage, making his wonderful leadership of the cast and crew quite apparent.
Beyond the Page Theatre Company at West Potomac High School will make you want to yell “You’re in the band!” so don’t miss the “climb to the top of Mount Rock” and go see School of Rock, the Musical!
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.