|Jomar Martinez as Dewey (center) and his students display their talents. (Kate Hart Photography)|
Palo Alto Players’ 92nd season is off to a rousing start with “School of Rock.”
This musical features a talented cast of 15 youngsters and 16 adults. The youngsters, mainly preteens, portray students in a pricey private school. Most of the adults, some playing multiple roles, play the kids’ parents and teachers.
The major exception is Jomar Martinez as Dewey Finn, a loser and aspiring rock musician, who becomes the kids’ substitute teacher by deception. He doesn’t know anything about the subjects he’s supposed to teach, but he soon fills the classroom with rock music.
Some of the kids play instruments, and others are pegged as backup singers. As they evolve into a large rock band, the kids start to blossom. For example, Tomika (Sadie Vaughn), is so shy that she can barely mumble her name, let alone say what’s bothering her. Dewey manages to bring her out of her shell, and she becomes an integral part of the group.
In another memorable scene, “If Only You Would Listen,” several students try to get their parents to really hear what they’re saying but get nowhere. Later, however, the parents hear and see the band and begin to regard the kids in a different light.
Of course there’s reckoning when Dewey’s subterfuge is discovered, but there’s a happy ending.
In a subplot, Dewey becomes unexpectedly enamored of the principal, Rosalie Mullins (Amy Kohmescher).
Based on a movie by Mike White, this stage version features a book by Julian Fellowes and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote most of the new music. One delightful exception is the virtuoso Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” well sung by Kohmescher.
As Dewey, Martinez is high energy, almost manic at times, often in the first act, but his antics lead to laughter, too.
Ably directed by Doug Santana, the entire cast is praiseworthy, especially the kids. They obviously have rehearsed long and hard, as evidenced in the choreography by Joey Dippel. Daniel Lloyd Pias serves as vocal director, while Amie Jan and Lane Sanders are co-music directors. Jan conducts the band.
PAP artistic director Patrick Klein designed the sets, which smoothly segue from one scene to the next. Costumes are by Noreen Styliadis, lighting by Edward Hunter and sound by Anthony Sutton.
All of these elements, especially the cast, deserve their enthusiastic audience response.
Running about two hours and 40 minutes with one intermission, “The School of Rock” will continue through Sept. 11 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. For tickets call (650) 329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org.
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