Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

School of Rock
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of American Moor

The Cast
Photo by Matthew Murphy
The touring production of School of Rock, now at Washington's National Theatre, proves that Andrew Lloyd Webber can still surprise an audience; the show is a rousing, rocking delight far from the grandiose pop operas that built his career. Not only that, but the performances by its cast of young musicians (who, as Sir Andrew says in a pre-recorded announcement, all play their instruments live) are inspirational, especially for younger audiences.

Julian Fellowes—yes, the creator of "Downton Abbey"—wrote the book, based on Mike White's screenplay for the 2003 movie that starred Jack Black. Here, Merritt David Janes takes the role of Dewey Finn, a scruffy aspiring rock guitarist who takes a substitute teaching job meant for his best friend and finds motivation in the musical talents of his fifth-grade students. Janes hits all the notes in Dewey's character: his immaturity, his determination, his inspiration, and ultimately his sense of purpose. (Don't let any of that sound pretentious; it's fun and sometimes rather gross.)

Glenn Slater's lyrics are a snug fit for Lloyd Webber's melodies, from Dewey's anthemic "When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock" to the students' rowdy "Stick It to the Man."

Much of the humor of the situation comes from the conflict between the culture of the conservative prep school, where the students wear uniforms and play classical music, and the anarchy Dewey brings to everyone's lives. It's also the old story of parents who either have unrealistic expectations for their children or don't pay attention to them at all, until they're forced to take another look.

Everyone in the cast gives noteworthy performances, but the highlights among the students are Lawrence (Theo Mitchell-Penner), a nerdy classical pianist who learns how it feels to be cool; Katie (Leanne Parks), who picks up the tough attitude of a rock bassist like a champ; Zack (Mystic Inscho), a blazing electric guitarist; and Summer (Sami Bray), a know-it-all who becomes the band's manager—and, unlike her adult counterparts, doesn't get her comeuppance.

If there's a problem with the plotting, it's the way the two leading women are set up as tough, no-nonsense caricatures who become likable when they submit to the charms of their feckless, music-loving men. Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp), the school principal and a classical singer, doesn't loosen up until Dewey discovers her secret love of rock-and-roll. Patty (Madison Micucci), girlfriend of Dewey's best friend and landlord Ned (Layne Roate), dominates both men until Ned the doormat reverts to his own bad-boy persona.

The National Theatre
School of Rock
January 16th - 27th, 2019
Book by Julian Fellowes
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Based on the Paramount movie written by Mike White
Dewey: Merritt David Janes (at some performances, Gary Trainor)
Rosalie: Lexie Dorsett Sharp
Ned: Layne Roate
Patty: Madison Micucci
Shonelle: Arianna Pereira
Katie: Leanne Parks
James: Jacob Moran
Marcy: Alyssa Emily Marvin
Mason: Julian Brescia
Tomika: Grier Burke
Freddy: Cameron Trueblood
Zack: Mystic Inscho
Billy: Sammy Dell
Lawrence: Theo Mitchell-Penner
Summer: Sami Bray
Sophie: Gabriella Uhl
Doug/Mr. Spencer: Matt Caplan
Ms. Sheinkopf/Security Guard #1: Deidre Lang
Snake/Mr. Mooneyham: Sinclair Mitchell
Stanley/Mr. Williams: Jonathon Timpanelli
Gabe Brown/Mr. Hamilton/Jeff Sanderson: Patrick Clanton
Bob/Mr. Sandford/Cop: Liam Fennecken
Mrs. Hathaway: Lulu Lloyd
Theo: JP Qualters
Security Guard #2: Melanie Evans
Ensemble: Matt Caplan, Patrick Clanton, Kristian Espiritu, Melanie Evans, Liam Fennecken, Lulu Lloyd, Sinclair Mitchell, JP Qualters, Jonathon Timpanelli
Directed by Laurence Connor
Choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter
The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 1-800-447-7400 or or